US trial over deadly synagogue shooting begins

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A federal trial began Monday for the alleged gunman who four years ago shot and killed 11 Jewish worshippers in the eastern US state of Pennsylvania.

Robert Bowers, who could face the death penalty if convicted, is accused of opening fire inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, reportedly yelling “All Jews must die!”


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The jury, whose selection began on Monday, will decide whether to find Bowers guilty of the worst anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.

The incident occurred during Shabbat services and Bowers, 50, was armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle and three pistols.

Arrested at the scene, he was later charged with 63 counts, including hate crimes resulting in murder and attempted murder.

Members of three congregations in the synagogue were killed in the attack, and two additional worshipers and several police officers were also wounded.

Bowers, a former truck driver, had expressed strong anti-Semitic views over the internet ahead of the attack.

The attack added to fears about a resurgence of far-right extremists and neo-Nazis across the country.

Donald Trump, then the US president, called for Bowers to receive the death penalty, which federal prosecutors formally requested in August 2019.

The Department of Justice under President Joe Biden has not carried out any federal executions since he came to power in January 2021.

Bowers’ trial, which could take weeks just to select jurors, opens amid a rising number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, according to data compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.

In 2022, the US-based Jewish group registered 3,697 acts of harassment, vandalism and assault, a 36 percent increase over the prior year and record high since it began keeping record in 1979.

Six months after the Tree of Life attack, another gunman opened fire in a synagogue in San Diego, California, killing one person and injuring three others during Passover ceremonies.

The suspected 19-year-old gunman was captured after fleeing the scene, and had apparently posted a hate-filled manifesto before his attack.

He pleaded guilty to the shooting and was sentenced in 2021 to life in prison.

The United States is home to millions of Jews, with the exact population varying on different definitions of the group.

Under its broadest definition, the total US population is higher than the Jewish population in Israel, according to the Pew Research Center.

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