26 June 2013

Taking of Testimony without any System

Today’s sixteenth day of the NSU trial saw witness testimony concerning the NSU apartment in the Frühlingsstraße in Zwickau. Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt had lived there, under assumed names, from 2008 on. After the death of the two men, the apartment had been set on fire, presumably by Zschäpe. Witnesses today were the real estate manager as well as two craftsmen who had worked in the house and were only absent by chance when the house caught fire.

It became apparent that the presiding judge’s plan concerning the timing of testimony will not work out. Four witnesses had been summoned today in half-hour intervals, but after more than six hours, not even the testimony of the third of those witnesses had concluded. This delay is not caused by victims’ counsel either – these counsel had asked some questions, but the vast majority of the time was spent on questioning by the presiding judge.

What’s more, there is no visible structure in the taking of evidence. For example, this week the trial started with testimony on the murder of Mr. Özüdoğru (Nuremberg), days 2 and 3 concerning the fire in the Frühlingsstraße (Zwickau). Both cases were only dealt with fragmentarily. The arson investigator from Zwickau police will continue his testimony a few weeks from now, a date for further witness testimony in the Frühlingsstraße case is not clear. Equally unclear is when testimony on the Özüdoğru murder will continue. Next week the trial will deal with neither, but will focus on testimony by police officers who interrogated the accused during the investigation. On Tuesday, Götzl showed the NSU propaganda videos without any preliminary announcement, as akin to a “stopgap”.

As presiding judge, Götzl may specify the planning of evidence at his discretion. By acting the way he does, he makes more than clear that he is not interested in a systematic gathering of evidence. He deals with the evidence contained in the indictment somehow and apparently believes that this will be enough for a conviction according to the indictment. The defence will not be opposed – especially the Zschäpe defence is hoping that the evidence, much of it circumstantial, brought together by the prosecution will simply prove insufficient. The defence therefore has no interest in a structured taking of evidence and questioning of witnesses, which may after all also uncover further incriminating facts.

An actual clarification of facts concerning the NSU, which may potentially also lead to new discoveries, is impossible under such circumstances. For interested members of the public as well as for private prosecutors interested in watching the proceedings, it becomes extremely difficult to continuously follow the proceedings or to plan which trial days to attend. If the taking of evidence continues the way it started, the trial will very quickly become largely incomprehensible and thus inaccessible to the public.