‘I was stoned’: Syrian denies Berlin belt attack on Jew was anti-Semitic (VIDEO)

‘I was stoned’: Syrian denies Berlin belt attack on Jew was anti-Semitic (VIDEO)
A Syrian man in Berlin has apologized to the victim of a suspected anti-Semitic attack as Germany continues its crackdown on resurgent hostility towards Jews in the country.

The 19-year-old asylum seeker was on trial Tuesday after video emerged of him attacking a youth wearing a kippah in an affluent neighbourhood in the German capital in April. He is alleged to have struck his victim ten times with a belt, wounding him in the face, stomach and leg. The defendant, who denied the attack was anti-Semitic, told the Berlin-Tiergarten District Court he was under the influence of ecstacy at the time.

The accused denied allegations that he had been abusing the two men for wearing kippahs, a brimless cap which is customarily worn by Jews. "I hate neither the Jews nor the Christians nor anything else,” he told the court, according to Berliner Zeitung.

READ MORE: Hundreds turn out for kippah-wearing rally in Berlin amid spike in anti-Semitism (PHOTOS)

The Syrian man, who has been in sheltered accommodation for asylum seekers since 2015, claimed he had been stoned and shouting “I curse your Jew” to his friend on the street. Later, he claimed he heard the two victims shout at him from the other side of the road. It was at this point he pulled out his belt and ran at the men.

Testifying at the trial, one of the victims, 21-year-old Israeli national Adam Armoush, denied that they had done anything to incite the attack. "All I can say is that I did not say a word to the defendant before he came to our side of the street,” he said.

In footage of the attack the Syrian man could be heard shouting “Yehudi,” the Arabic word for ‘Jew’ as he swung the belt. Armoush, a veterinary student, told Deutsche Welle in April that the man was one of a gang of three who began shouting at him and a friend.

"One of them got real aggressive and ran to me with his belt," Armoush told the newspaper at the time of the attack. "At that moment I realized I have to take a video of it. I wanted to have evidence for police and the German people and the world to see how terrible it is these days as a Jew to go through Berlin streets.”

READ MORE: Kippah and the city: German Jews urged to avoid wearing skull caps after Berlin attack

The case caused widespread outrage in Germany. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas took to Twitter to condemn the incident while Chancellor Angela Merkel also denounced the attack. “The fight against such anti-Semitic acts must be won, the reputation of our state is at stake, and we are committed to it with all our strength,” she said.

The accused is Palestinian with a Syrian passport, according to newspaper reports. In 2015, he fled Syria for Germany with his brother. No judgement has yet been made in his case. He has now been returned to custody. The trial will resume on Monday.

The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin rose some 60 percent to 947 total in 2017, according to the latest figures from the Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism (RIAS).

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