30 September 2013

Witness remains steadfast: Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt were in Dortmund in 2006

Today saw the testimony, on rather short notice, of a witness who had contact a victim’s counsel this summer. The witness testified that in March/April 2006, she had seen Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt together with a brawny skinhead on the property neighboring hers in Dortmund. She also testified that significant excavation had taken place on that property. She had recognized Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt in the press after the NSU had been uncovered.

She had not directly gone to the police because at first she had thought that her knowledge would not be decisive. Upon being asked today, she also stated that she had been afraid of retaliation by Nazis should she testify.

Some media outlets, who apparently had had access to her earlier statements even before the trial date today, have speculated about the possibility of a mix-up. They refer to a statement by the janitor of the neighboring property, who had stated that he had been on the property with his wife and some friends and had done some work there. He claims that his girl friend looks like Beate Zschäpe. According to his statement, he had built a pond on the lot, but had later filled it up again.

Of course, it is hard to assess the witness’ statement, seven years after the fact, concerning the identification of perpetrators based on press coverage of the NSU’s crimes. This identification alone surely cannot suffice as basis for a conviction. On the other hand, the witness has today shown great consistency in her statement vis-à-vis her earlier statement to the federal prosecution and has testified in a very plausible, vivid and self-reflective manner.

She has also stated that it is quite possible that a pond was built in the back part of the lot. On the other hand, she had wondered that a significant part of that work was conducted at nighttime. The witness also testified that she had observed the group including Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt for a period of three to five minutes, most of that time using binoculars.

In any normal court trial, such a witness would be a dream witness for a presiding judge and a nightmare for a defense attorney, notwithstanding that a long time has passed since her observations.

The importance of her testimony can only be fully weighed once the other persons who play a role in this context, including the janitor, his girlfriend and the witness’ spouse, have testified. Their testimony is scheduled next week. In any event, her testimony will have to lead to further investigations, particularly into the Nazi scene in Dortmund.

Besides that witness, the court today heard two police officers from Kassel, who reported on the crime scene of the Halit Yozgat murder and the way the deceased had found, showing pictures of the crime scene. They also testified on first investigations concerning the fact that Andreas Temme, an employee of the domestic secret service and contact for informers of that agency, had been present at the crime scene when the murder happened. Witness testimony by Halit Yozgat’s father was moved to tomorrow.