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Man who bombed Dortmund team bus faces verdict

Prosecutors say Sergej Wenergold had hoped to profit financially from the bomb attack on the Borussia Dortumund team bus © dpa/AFP / Bernd Thissen

DORTMUND, Germany, Nov 27 A Russian-born German man who launched a shrapnel bomb attack on the team bus of football club Borussia Dortmund last year, wounding two people, faces his verdict and sentence Tuesday.

Sergej Wenergold, 29, had hoped to profit financially from the attack by betting on an anticipated plunge in the club’s stock market value, say prosecutors.

The court in the western city of Dortmund will have to decide whether he is guilty of 28 counts of attempted murder, which would carry a maximum term of life in prison.

The trained electrician also faces charges of causing an explosion and two counts of causing serious injury, as the blasts wounded Spanish defender Marc Bartra and a police officer on a motorcycle.

After an 11-month trial, justice Peter Windgaetter was expected to announce the verdict around 2pm local time (4pm EAT).

Wenergold had stayed in the same hotel as the team when he launched the attack on April 11, 2017 as the bus was heading for a Champions’ League match against Monaco.

He had hidden in a hedge three explosive devices, each of which contained up to a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of a hydrogen peroxide mixture and about 65 cigarette-sized metal bolts.

Wenergold had left letters suggesting an Islamist terrorist motive at the scene, sparking initial alarm about a possible jihadist attack.

– Market gamble –

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Wenergold’s defence lawyer Carl Heydenreich said his client had hoped to spark panic and terror, not to wound or kill people, and asked for lenient punishment well below 10 years’ prison.

Heydenreich blamed the defendant’s “narcissistic personality” and told the court Wenergold had wanted to “commit the perfect crime to please his ego — he wanted the gains without doing harm”.

Prosecutors called this claim “nonsense” and argued that the defendant had aimed to kill as many players as possible.

Wenergold had bought put options and contracts worth some 26,000 euros (Sh2.9mn) — essentially a bet on the club’s share price falling — and had hoped to gain half a million euros (Sh58mn), said prosecutors.

Police escort Dortmund’s players after their team bus was caught in a bomb blast April 11, 2017 © AFP/File / Patrik STOLLARZ

The defendant reportedly drew attention to himself at the hotel, first by insisting on a window room facing the front and then, in the chaos after the blasts, by calmly walking into its restaurant to order a steak.

Police arrested Wenergold 10 days after the attack.

Several players of Borussia Dortmund, the current Bundesliga leaders, gave emotional testimony during the trial about the trauma they suffered.

Dortmund’s Swiss goalkeeper Roman Buerki was one of the players who appeared as a witness © dpa/AFP / Ina Fassbender

A day after the attack, Dortmund played their postponed game against Monaco and lost, prompting then coach Thomas Tuchel to rail against UEFA for not giving the players time to come to terms with their fear before returning to the pitch.

Wenergold, who confessed to the attack in January, voiced his regret last week when he told the court: “I would like to apologise to everybody.”

If found guilty, Wenergold faces a maximum term of life in prison, although in Germany parole is usually granted after 15 years.

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