16-18 July 2013

On earlier statements of accused Gerlach

Contrary to the original plans, only two witnesses testified during the week of 16 to 18 July. An officer of the Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations who had interrogated Gerlach several times during the investigation testified on all three trial days. His testimony showed once again that Gerlach only disclosed his knowledge bit by bit over the course of several interrogations.

Gerlach told the witness on several occasions that Beate Zschäpe was on an equal footing with Böhnhardt and Mundlos, in particular that she had handled the group’s finances. It also became apparent several times that Mundlos und Böhnhardt had blabbed details of crimes several times – for example, Mundlos had proudly shown Gerlach a pumpgun he had bought. These details will be building blocks for the court convicting Zschäpe as co-perpetrator, but also show that the supporters of the NSU had knowledge of the group’s crimes.

The officer stressed that Gerlachs statements had furthered the investigations quite a bit – an announcement which will likely earn Gerlach a sentence reduction under the crown witness rule. However, the testimony also raises serious doubts concerning whether Gerlach’s own role is in fact limited to those acts he has so far admitted. For example, the witness entertained serious doubts whether it is true, as claimed by Gerlach, that he had only been in the NSU flat in Zwickau twice overall. Finally, the officer’s testimony showed again that Gerlach must have known more about the crimes of the NSU than he has admitted.

The witness was also questioned by the defence, above all the Zschäpe and Wohlleben defence teams. Their questions concerned mostly aspects where they felt that the officers should have asked specific follow-up questions concerning Gerlachs statements. And indeed the testimony showed a certain disinterest of the police in conducting a thorough investigation – however, any clues that Gerlach’s statements incriminating Zschäpe and Wohlleben are untrue did not arise.

On 17 and 18 July, the arson investigator from Zwickau continued to testify on the effects of the fire in the Frühlingsstraße apartment, showing a large number of photos of the house after the fire. The investigator’s testimony will continue on a later trial day, next time he will also report on several items (inter alia guns as well as the handcuffs of murdered police officer Kiesewetter) found in the wreckage of the house.

Another police officer from Nuremberg who was originally summoned as a witness for 16 July will now likely testify on 1 August.

Beside the testimony of these witnesses, the trial day also saw debates concerning the way the trial is conducted. Victims’ counsel for the Yozgat family moved that in the future, witnesses again be summoned according to the chronology of the crimes concerning which they are to testify. Recent weeks had often seen several murders being considered in the same week alongside witnesses concerning statements of the accused and the Frühlingsstraße fire. The presiding judge reacted in a quite exasperated manner and explained that, in planning the summoning of witnesses, he had to take into account inter alia vacations of witnesses and private prosecutors.

Counsel for the Yozgat family also gave a statement on the announcement by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office that they would object to any question not directly concerning the crimes charged. Counsel Dierbach stated that she would of course ask such questions since an investigation of racist methods of investigation was simply part of the investigation concerning the NSU as a whole. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors began to put into action their announcement by objecting to several questions asked of the witness by the Wohlleben defence, despite the fact that these questions did in fact have a connection with the case at hand. The presiding judge held all these questions to be admissible.