23 July 2013

Once more on Gerlach’s testimony – and on “higher priority assignments” in Nuremberg

Today the court first considered the Simsek murder case. A pathologist detailed the wounds suffered by the murder victim. Enver Simsek was hit by eight bullets, one of the five shots to the head led to his death. A weapons expert from the Bavarian Office of Criminal Investigations reported on a reconstruction of the crime, which showed that it was committed either by two perpetrators or by one perpetrator who switched weapons in the middle of the killing.

One victim’s counsel asked the expert witness why it had taken him roughly two years to finish his first report on the reconstruction. He gave an evasive answer, stating that he was part of a small team and that they had probably been busy with “higher priority assignments”. He did not give any indication which case took priority over a series of murders of people with Turkish origin.

Afterwards, the trial dealt with police officers from the Federal Office of Criminal Investigations (BKA) who had interrogated accused Gerlach during the investigation. First, the parties gave statements on the testimony of the main interrogator who had testified the previous week.

The Zschäpe defence lamented that the officer had not asked necessary questions arising out of Gerlach’s testimony. The defence also claimed contradictions in Gerlach’s statements. A number of victims’ counsel, on the other hand, showed that Gerlach had indeed been somewhat hesitant in disclosing what he knew, but that there is no reason to disbelieve the facts he did in fact disclose. On the other hand, his testimony also showed that Gerlach is still playing down his role and his knowledge concerning the NSU’s crimes. The statement by victims’ counsel is available, in the original German version, here.

The Wohlleben referred to the right to a contradictory questioning of witnesses under the European Convention on Human Rights, claiming that since Gerlach refused to answer questions and since necessary questions had not been asked during the investigation either, his statement could not be used in evidence against Wohlleben.

After these statements, the court heard the testimony of a further BKA officer. He had been the first BKA officer to question Gerlach, on 13 November 2011. This interrogation took place at the point in time when Gerlach was still rather reluctant to disclose what he knew. One interesting detail: this officer was the first to officially charge Gerlach with providing aid to a terrorist organization. He also formally notified Gerlach at the beginning of the interrogation that an investigation was also conducted against him in connection with the then so-called “kebap killings”: Asked whether he remembered any sign of Gerlach being surprised by this statement, the witness could not recall any such sign.

The final witness was a police officer who had questioned a witness of the murder of Abdurrahim Özüdogru. The witness had claimed in court that she had seen the victim lying in his tailor shop, had seen a man run out of the shop, and that she had seen Beate Zschäpe at the crime scene. She had also stated that she was afraid to continue to testify for fear of being killed (see the report on 24 June 2013). Back then, many participants had already had the impression that the witness was mashing up her own memories and news reports she had since then seen. This impression was reinforced by the police officer’s testimony today. The testimony of the original witness will not be a serious factor in the judgment.