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This courtroom sketch depicts Robert Gregory Bowers, who was wounded in a gun battle with police as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court. VOA

The man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue pleaded not guilty Thursday in a U.S. federal court on 44 charges that include murder and hate crimes.

Robert Bowers, 46, spoke little during the brief court appearance beyond saying he understood the charges and his “not guilty” plea.


A grand jury indicted Bowers on Wednesday in connection with the October 27 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue.

In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the alleged crimes “are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.”


Pittsburgh police stand guard as the casket of Irving Younger, 69, is wheeled from Congregation Rodef Shalom after his funeral, VOA

Victims’ funerals

Funerals for the victims continue Thursday with services for Bernice and Sylvan Simon, as well as Dr. Richard Gottfried.

On Wednesday, hundreds of friends gathered to pay tribute to Melvin Wax, 88, who was leading Sabbath services on Saturday when the gunman burst into the synagogue shouting, “All Jews must die!” and began shooting. Funerals also were held for retired real estate agent Irving Younger, 69, and retired university researcher Joyce Fienberg, 75.

Trump visit

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the synagogue on Tuesday, placing a stone at each of the 11 Stars of David set up outside. Placing stones at a grave or remembrance site is an ancient Jewish tradition.

Trump also met with police officers wounded by gunfire in a shootout as they apprehended Bowers and spent an hour talking with Peg Durachko, whose husband, Dr. Richard Gottfried, was among the 11 killed.


A sign during a protest gathering on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. VOA

“Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh,” Trump said on Twitter. “The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly.”

Protests

Several thousand protesters demonstrated in the streets during Trump’s visit, contending that his rhetoric helped fuel the gunman’s anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant views against a Jewish group that aids refugees arriving in the U.S. from overseas. Trump complained about news coverage of the several hours he spent in Pittsburgh.

“Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away,” he said. “The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!”

Trump shook hands with the synagogue’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.


Flowers surround Stars of David on Oct. 31, 2018, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday in Pittsburgh., VOA

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — wearing a Jewish yarmulke — and daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner, accompanied the first couple to offer their condolences.

“The president was very moved by the visit and his time with the rabbi and called it very humbling and sad,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Also Read: Trump Meets Florida School Shooting Survivors, Suggests Arming Teachers

Worst attack in history

The Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked hatred and violence against Jews since the 1970s, said the Pittsburgh mayhem was the worst attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history. (VOA)


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