A German man who stabbed a Cologne mayoral candidate in the neck during a campaign event over her pro-refugee stance went on trial Friday on charges of attempted murder.
Frank S, whose full name was withheld under German privacy laws, approached Henriette Reker during a campaign event October 17 and stabbed her with a hunting knife.
"The defendant had decided to kill his victim," the lead prosecutor told the court Friday, adding that the man had launched a "complete surprise" attack on Reker and subsequently injured four by stabbing bystanders indiscriminately.
Reker, the social affairs coordinator responsible for the accommodation of refugees until she was elected mayor one day after the stabbing, sustained critical injuries and was placed in an artificial coma.
During police questioning, 44-year-old Frank S said he had targeted Reker for her pro-refugee stance.
Reker took office five days after the attack while still in hospital and continues to receive medical treatment for the injury. The politician is expected to testify in two weeks.
Speaking in the Dusseldorf court Friday, Frank S described his activities as a neo-Nazi in the 1990s, saying he had spent about three years in prison for violent altercations with members of the far-left.
The defendant could be sentenced to life in jail, but his lawyers argue the crime should be classed as grievous bodily harm, which can be punished with up to 10 years' imprisonment under German law.
Reker made international headlines again in the wake of a crime spree in central Cologne on New Year's Eve during which hundreds of men targeted mostly women. She was lambasted for advising women to avoid being in close proximity to strangers to prevent sexual harassment.