Monthly Archives: October 2013

24 October 2013

Inter alia on the NSU videos

Today the court again considered several different aspects of the case.

The trial day started with two expert witnesses reporting on the Ismail Yaşas murder. According to them, this crime had been very similar to the other murders: First the killers shot their victim in the head; after he had fallen to the ground, they fired three more shots at him. The evidence leads one to assume that a silencer was again used and that the gun was fired from inside a plastic bag.

A police officer from Zwickau reported on calls to the emergency services after the fire in the Frühlingsstraße. There had been no such call from Zschäpe. The defense had claimed that Zschäpe had indeed reported the fire; they referred to a database entry showing a failed connection and claimed that this was her call. This question will likely require further evidence.

The next issue discussed was the videos in which the NSU claimed responsibility for their crimes. A federal investigator from Hamburg reported that the photos of Süleyman Taşköprü used in that video had been shot before other people had arrived at the crime scene, i.e. by the killers themselves.

Another federal investigator had dealt with the newspaper articles used in the video. Copies of these articles were also found in the Frühlingsstraße. Zschäpe’s finger prints were only found on articles not used in the video, but given that the articles were archived together, it must be assumed that she also knew of the articles used in the video. Also found in the rubble of the Frühlingsstraße were two earlier versions of the video, which contained music from Nazi rock band “Noie Werte” (“New Values”) – lead singer of that band is Steffen Hammer, an attorney and a former officemate of Wohlleben defence attorney Schneiders. These earlier videos were created in 2001 and showed all crimes committed until then. These videos already show the NSU logo, showing that the organization already existed at this time. A further document, created in 2007, was a so called “NSU letter” in which the NSU asked “comrades” for support in their fight.

The testimony of an expert witness on the murder weapons, in particular on the Ceska pistol, was not finished today – before continuing his testimony, the expert will send several photos to the court to be sent on to the parties.

On the evening of Wednesday, several victims’ counsel had issued a press release ([link] in German) on the topic of institutional racism. This was triggered by two emails sent by Joseph Wilfling, the lead investigator of the Munich murders, to a member of the parliamentary enquiry commission in the Bavarian parliament. In these mails, Wilfling insulted the parliamentarian and once again showed exactly the kind of mind-set that had led to the police conducting a very thoroughly one-sided and failed investigation over the span of several years.

23 October 2013

On the murder of Mehmet Turgut

Today the court finally began to hear testimony on the murder of Mehmet Turgut in Rostock. Such testimony had been postponed several times, the last time due to the challenges of the Zschäpe and Wohlleben defenses claiming bias on the part of the judges. Several of the witnesses were police officers.

The crime scene investigator reported on his work, which seems to have been quite thorough. His conclusion: “They did not come in order to rob or anything, they only came to kill”

Several of his colleagues reported on the investigation, painting a picture similar to that known from several of the other murders: On the one hand, the police knew early on that the same Ceska pistol as in other murders had been used and thus that this crime was part of the murder series. Nonetheless, for a long time, the investigation was focused solely on alleged suspicion against the Turgut family and the family of the owner of the kebap shop where Turgut was killed. The lead investigator claimed that there had been no concrete leads concerning a xenophobic motive – in a police press release shortly after the murder, the police claimed to be able exclude this option at the moment.

The owner of the kebap shop, who found Mehmet Turgut in his last minutes very shortly after the murder, described in very concrete terms how the Turgut family, as well as he himself, had suffered after the killing. He had given up his shop and never set foot there again. He also described how he was interrogated for hours by the police, told time and time again that “he knew everything” about the motives, and generally treated like a suspect.

The court dismissed the motion brought by victim’s counsel Seda Basay that the case file of the investigation against Andreas Temme, officer of the domestic secret service, be incorporated into the case. The court claimed that these files were not relevant to the judgment to be passed in this case. This decision was widely hailed as unacceptable by victims’ counsel given that the importance of Temme as a witness in this case is evident. Seda Basay announced a statement for tomorrow.

22 October 2013

Was Beate Zschäpe present at the Nuremberg crime scene?

The trial day began with the testimony of a witness who stated that she had seen Beate Zschäpe on the day of the murder of Ismail Yaşar in Nuremberg in the immediate vicinity of the crime scene. On a playground which was also very close to Yaşar’s kebap shop, she had seen two young men with bikes. Her description of the cyclists closely matches Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, in fact, when shown a picture of Mundlos years later, she stated that he looked at least very similar to the man she had seen. Today, eight years after the murder, the witness was unable to remember certain details, and she even declared some parts of the protocol of her first statement to the police to be wrong. However, the witness was very certain as far as the core of her statement, namely that she had seen Zschäpe and the two men, was concerned, and she was also able to explain in detail why she had remembered seeing them.

This testimony alone will not suffice to convict Zschäpe as a co-perpetrator of the murders. However, it is an important piece of evidence, along with others such as the witness from Dortmund who claims to have seen her shortly before the murder in Dortmund or the phone call from a Zwickau call box to the cell phone of the murderers in Munich.

The next witness was the owner of a car rental shop in Zwickau. He stated that Böhnhardt had rented several cars from him over a period of several years. Cars rented include vans for vacations as well as other cars for shorter periods of time. Police investigations had shown that the timing of these rentals coincided with the NSU’s crimes. Böhnhardt had given the name of Holger Gerlach and had presented a driver’s license in that name. Zschäpe had accompanied him several times.

Victims’ counsel for the Yozgat family moved that further investigations be conducted concerning Andreas Temme, officer of the domestic secret service: On a map of Kassel found in the wreckage of the burned down house in the Frühlingsstraße, there had been several marks representing potential targets for attacks. All such targets save one were extremely close to routes Temme routinely traveled on or to places he often visited. This motion shows again that the file of the investigation against Temme needs to be incorporated into this trial’s case file, as requested by victim’s counsel Seda Basay.

15 October 2013

„These notes can only have been taken in the course of an observation at the crime scene“

Today’s trial day showed on the one hand how meticulously the NSU killers planned their crimes, on the other hand why the German police was incapable of uncovering the perpetrators.

The first witness was a police officer who had sifted through the wreckage of the burned down house in Zwickau. According to her testimony, Zschäpe had, in 2011, paid for an Eminger family vacation in Paris under her alias Lisa Pohl – either a birthday present for André Eminger or a thank you for renting vehicles which were presumably used for murders and bombing attacks.

Another police officer had evaluated maps and the like found in the wreckage. He had found that the attempt to burn the evidence had almost been successful as all documents had been singed. He had found substantial material in the form of maps, lists of addresses and other notes in particular as concerns Nuremberg, Munich, Kassel and Dortmund. A total of 267 potential targets had been scoped, including rooms associated to political parties (especially the Left Party), institutions of Muslim organizations, and housing and advice centers for refugee.

These notes can only have been taken in the course of an observation at the crime scene, over periods of time between four to eight weeks and 12 months. This again calls into question the assumption in the indictment that Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe acted alone – quite to the contrary, it seems impossible for them to have conducted observations of this scope. The evidence so far rather points to local Nazis having helped plan the murders.

One map of Nuremberg was also found on a hard drive found with accused Eminger.

An expert witness with the Bavarian police confirmed that the prepaid cell phone which was called from a public phone box in Zwickau shortly before the murder of Theodoros Boulgarides was at that time in the direct vicinity of the Munich crime scene – one further piece of evidence for Zschäpe’s direct involvement in the murders.

The various notes on the murders also show that the perpetrators had clear criteria in choosing their victims: the scenes had to be close to major roads, there had to be flight paths for cars and for bicycles, the victims had to be of Turkish origin and middle-aged. These commonalities were not a factor in the police investigation, however, as the police kept on looking for motives relating to the victims’ personal lives or families.

Thus the testimony of police officer Blumenröther again showed the extent to which the investigation was marked by prejudices and incompetence. The witness, now retired, had been lead investigator of the special investigation team “Theo” charged with investigating the murder of Theodoros Boulgarides. He stated that there had not been any clues regarding a racist murder – a slip of the tongue led him to refer to a “foreigner motive” given the series of murders of migrants. The victim’s family had kept floating the idea of a xenophobic motive, but there had, according to Blumenröther, simply not been any clues pointing in that direction.

The witness insisted on this point despite the fact that two men who had been in contact with convicted Nazi terrorist Martin Wiese and with Norman Bordin, another militant neo-Nazi, had been found at the crime scene directly after the murder. After all, the witness related, they had answered questions in a calm and cooperative manner and had admitted to having met Bordin and Wiese about ten times, but “only in private”. “One of them even said that he had a friend who was a Muslim”. This marked the end of the investigation of the Nazi scene. The special investigation team “Bosporus” in Nuremberg had received further information concerning the involvement of the two men in the Nazi scene, but the witness claimed that he had never received that information.

The trial day on Thursday was canceled since the only witness planned to testify on that day will not appear. The witness, a Swiss national suspected of having sold the Ceska pistol used in the murders, is subject of Swiss criminal proceedings for aiding and abetting murder and thus entitled to refuse to testify.

16 October 2013

Where did the Ceska come from?

Today’s trial day was to uncover the provenance of the silenced Ceska pistol used by the NSU. However, the only witness to testify today was a gun shop owner from Switzerland who had sold the gun in 1996. He testified that he had sold one silenced Ceska and one Ceska without silence via mail. The buyer had provided him with an official permit to buy a gun and a copy of his identification. The witness stated that the silenced Ceska was a relatively rare model, but that he had sold a number of such guns.

Two additional witnesses, the original buyer of the NSU Ceska and the person presumed to have sold it on to Germany, did not appear in court. The court will now try to have them testify via video-link. The second of the two men has already announced that he will invoke the privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to testify.

Parties also watched a video from a surveillance camera in the Keupstraße in Cologne, this time with somewhat enhanced picture quality, in order to check whether a woman seen on that video shortly before the bombing attack was Beate Zschäpe. The police officers who had worked on the video stated that the woman was not Zschäpe, and in fact there was no resemblance of Zschäpe to the woman in the video.

Angelika Lex, victim’s counsel for the widow of Theodoros Boulgarides, made a statement commenting on yesterday’s testimony of the police officer who had led the investigations in the Boulgarides murder case. Her statement is documented (in German) here.

10 October 2013

„You were saying that your sister’s husband was not of pure German blood?“ (Olaf Klemke, Defence Attorney of Ralf Wohlleben)

All parties had been intently awaiting the questioning of accused Carsten Schultze, this time by the defence of accused Ralf Wohlleben, which took up most of this trial day. Schultze had originally refused to answer questions of the Wohlleben defence, finding it unfair that he had “made himself nude” by testifying in detail while Wohlleben did not testify at all. In the meantime, Schultze has realized that it would be good for the credibility of his statement, and would likely lead to a less lengthy sentence for himself, if he also answers these questions.

Schultze has massively incriminated Wohlleben, stating that it was Wohlleben who had upheld the contact to the three undercover Nazis, that it was Wohlleben who had told him to buy the Ceska pistol and give it to “the Three”. Schultze’s testimony is particularly credible given that it has already led to the uncovering of an additional NSU bombing attack.

Accordingly, parties were expecting a particularly intensive questioning. But the Wohlleben defence did not live up to the situation: hours upon hours of questions which tested Schultze’s memory, but never left him hard-pressed to answer. However, Wohlleben’s defence attorney Klemke showed his true colors by asking Schultze “„You were saying that your sister’s husband was not of pure German blood?“, showing his own closeness to his client’s ideology.

The questioning of Schultze took about five hours. The end of the trial day was marked by a motion from victim’s counsel Stolle from Berlin. Stolle moved that a “birthday newspaper” which had been found in the apartment of André Kapke, also suspected of NSU involvement, be admitted into evidence. This paper had been prepared by Ralf Wohlleben and a mutual friend on the occasion of André Kapke’s birthday on 24 August 1998, following the style of the “Bild-Zeitung”, Germany’s (in-)famous yellow press newspaper. It contains “funny” articles such about the Buchenwald death camp being “converted into a ‘gas station’” and the like, but above all a number of homages to Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe who had gone undercover shortly before.

Wohlleben’s self-descriptions in that paper show him as someone who had been deeply racist even as a small child and who was willing to kill in furtherance of his hatred against anyone not fitting into his extreme right-wing world view.

Wohlleben knew what he was writing about. Mundlos, Zschäpe, Böhnhardt, Gerlach and Kapke were his closest confidants, with whom he shared both a friendship lasting years and a common political organization. Wohlleben knew that in laying down his racist murder fantasies, he was not only describing himself, but also speaking on behalf of the entire “Kameradschaft Jena”. It is apparent that he hit the nail on the head – after all Kapke had held on to the paper for many years.

8/9 October 2013

Clues from the wreckage of the Frühlingsstraße flat incriminate Zschäpe and Eminger

The first witness on Tuesday was the neighbor of the witness from Dortmund who had testified last week that she had seen a brawny skin head together with Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos at the neighboring lot. The witness today denied having any contacts to the Nazi scene – of course, anything else would have made him a suspect. However, his denial is hardly credible: the names of his children invite a link to Nazi ideology, at soccer games he has no problem sharing a fan section with leading Nazis from Germany, and he stated that he did not feel that the slogan “Zick Zack Kanackenpack” was in any way right-wing – “Kanacke”, of course, is a clearly xenophobic slur referring to foreigners, particularly of Turkish origin.

His testimony can thus not refute the testimony of his neighbor. That testimony is, however, problematic in that the observations were made seven years ago and the neighbor only recognized the three NSU members in late 2011 after having seen their pictures on TV. Her identification alone will not suffice for a conviction. The importance of her testimony will become apparent as the trial goes on. If further clues are found as to Zschäpe’s presence at the crime scenes, the testimony of the Dortmund witness will come to the foreground again. Until then, it needs to be stressed that Zschäpe’s presence at the crime scenes is not a necessary condition for her being convicted of murder as a co-perpetrator.

A police officer testified as to the contents of a hard drive found in the burnt down Frühlingsstraße apartment. It contained inter alia the video the NSU used to claim responsibility for its murders, two earlier versions of that video and work product of their being prepared. The video was ready to be burned on disc, a list of addresses of recipients was also prepared. It seems that the distribution of the video had been prepared well in advance.

Another folder on the same hard drive contained a number of files belonging to accused Eminger, such as Christmas letters containing Swastika symbols send to his parents, in-laws and other family members, templates for tattoos and pictures of his wife and children. This argues for Eminger, who is after all a self-employed professional in image editing, worked on the NSU’s videos.

On Wednesday further clues were discussed which again incriminated accused Zschäpe: The Frühlingsstraße wreckage also contained an archive of 68 newspaper articles concerning the NSU’s murders. Although it is rather hard to locate finger prints on paper, Zschäpe’s prints were found on two papers.

The afternoon was devoted to the testimony of a police officer who had taken the rental agreements for cars and caravans and had ascertained, from his desk, which routes had been driven with these vehicles.

According to his testimony, vehicles had been rented from four rental agencies, first under the name of André Eminger and using his ID card, later under the name of Holger Gerlach. However, according to the testimony of agency employees who had been shown photos, the vehicles were apparently in fact rented by Uwe Böhnhardt. Zschäpe, too, had been recognized by employees. In one instance of a car being rented unter the name of Eminger, a telephone number had been used which belonged to a cell phone actually used by him personally, which tends to show that he had not only provided his ID, but was in direct contact with “the Three”.

The witness reported that there had been a total of 65 vehicle rentals, 15 of which overlapped with 17 of the NSU’s crimes. The kilometers driven were also in line with the vehicles being used to drive to and from the crime scenes. Other rentals had been in the context of vacations. According to police calculations, the total amount spent on vehicle rentals and gas money from 2000 to 2011 was about € 27,622.62. One of the vehicles had been sighted after the murder of police officer Kiesewetter in Heilbronn.

2 October 2013

An appeal by Ayse Yozgat

Today’s trial day began with a deeply touching appeal by the mother of murder victim Halit Yozgat, Ayse Yozgat:

“My appeal is directed to Ms. Zschäpe. You are also a lady. I speak to you as mother of Halit Yozgat. I ask you to clear up all that has happened. Since you are a woman I believe that women understand each other. For the last seven years, I can only ever sleep two hours per night. …

I ask for elucidation. Please free me from these feelings. I often feel very affected. I don’t want you to take on others’ sins. Please always think of me when you go to bed. Think of the fact that I cannot sleep. Thank you.”

The rest of the trial day consisted of several reports by federal police officers on the investigations which severely incriminated accused Beate Zschäpe.

According to these reports, the videos claiming responsibility for the NSU’s murders contained photos which were taken immediately after the murders of Enver Şimşek, Süleyman Taşköprü and Abdurrahim Özüdoğru, before police, EMTs or other persons arrived at the crime scenes. This shows that the pictures were taken by the killers and later entered into the videos which Zschäpe sent to various addresses.

In the debris of the burnt down flat in the Frühlingsstraße, police found part of a map of Nuremberg in which the crime scene in the Scharrerstraße was marked, as well as a slip of paper with the address of the crime scene in Kassel and of radio frequencies used by police in Northern Hesse, i.e. the area around Kassel. This shows that the NSU murderers had the technical means to eavesdrop on police radio.

One piece of evidence that should prove particularly incriminating for Zschäpe is a cell phone with SIM card found in the Frühlingsstraße. A few hours before the murder of Theodoros Boulgarides in Munich, this phone was used by someone in the immediate vicinity to make a phone call to a public phone box in Zwickau. The phone was not used for everyday calls. In other words, Zschäpe called a dedicated phone from a phone box in order not to leave any traces – behavior which clearly shows that she was directly involved in the murders. Finally, police found Zschäpe’s finger prints on newspaper articles from the “Cologne Express” of 11 June 2004 regarding the Keupstraße bombing attack and of the “Tageszeitung” from Munich of 30 August 2001 regarding the murder of Habil Kılıç.

Finally, the court heard testimony from the husband of the witness from Dortmund who had stated that in April of 2006, she had seen Zschäpe together with Mundlos and Böhnhardt on a lot neighboring her house. The witness could not explain why his wife had only disclosed her knowledge to a victim’s counsel this year. He did, however, remember that he was sure to have recognized all three persons. In the end, his wife had felt that observations and conjectures were not enough to contact the police or go public. “There was no objective evidence, no proof. I was afraid to make a fool of myself.” This assessment may be considered peculiar, but his testimony seemed very authentic. It is not likely, however, to influence the credibility of his wife’s testimony.

1 October 2013

The desperation of Ismail Yozgat

Today was a trial day filled with extreme emotions. The father of murder victim Halit Yozgat, Ismail Yozgat, testified on the death of his son. But Ismail Yozgat detailed not only how he found his murdered son under dramatic circumstances, but how his trust in the German justice system has been damaged by the way the system has dealt with, inter alia, Andreas Temme, an officer of the domestic secret service who was present at the crime scene.

Mr. Yozgat’s testimony injected into the court proceedings a hint of the desperation and hopelessness caused by the Nazi murders – this after the court room had become a largely emotion free zone under the matter-of-fact administration of Presiding Judge Götzl.

In the afternoon, the testimony of Andreas Temme, whose tasks at the domestic secret service included being liaison-officer for informants from the Nazi scene. Although this very dubious witness had been present in Halit Yozgat’s internet café at the time of the murder, he had not come forward to the police. The Hessian Ministry of the Interior had interfered with attempts by the police to interrogate him and had for some time even succeeded in preventing such interrogation. A criminal investigation against Temme has been discontinued in the meantime.

The way the justice system has dealt with this witness again led to conflict today: the office of the federal prosecutor has not integrated the case file of the investigation against Temme into the court file of the case against Zschäpe et al. and refuses to do so to this day. One victim’s counsel moved today that the case file be integrated – this is an issue that will likely be the subject of intense litigation in the weeks to come.

As to Temme’s statement in court, it became very apparent that presiding judge Götzl was not convinced by his explanations as to why he had not come forward after hearing of Halit Yozgat’s murder. Götzl made more than clear that he did not believe Temme and finally ended today’s testimony, but not without signalizing that further intensive interrogation of Temme will take place in the future.

Today’s testimony has again shown that the involvement of the secret service in the Halit Yozgat murder case will play an important role in this trial.