29 July 2014

Zschäpe’s challenge against the court – much ado about nothing.

Today’s trial day was largely without concrete results:

The testimony of Thomas Rothe, one of the earliest supporters of “the Three” among Blood and Honour activists from Chemnitz, had to be interrupted again and will continue on a later trial day. Rothe kept emphasizing that “all that” was 14 years ago and that he had not noticed much in any event – on the other hand, he also admitted that he had helped organize “two, three concerts” on behalf of Blood and Honour. The presiding judge read out statements from a former police interview of Rothe’s and commented that “this was basically a lie.” It will be interesting to see how his testimony continues.

The court then interviewed a judge of the Federal Court of Justice who had interviewed Matthias Dienelt, who had rented the NSU apartments in Zwickau for the NSU when Dienelt was imprisoned on remand. The Zschäpe defense used the opportunity to show that they are willing to defend their client “by any means possible” (as reported in the daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung”) – including challenges for alleged bias which they must know have a snowball’s chance in hell of being successful. The presiding judge had read out large parts of the minutes of the interview and had the witness confirm that this was what had been said. He had not read out the entire interview, however, and the defense claimed that two of the parts not read out had been exculpatory. This, the defense claimed, showed him to be biased against the defense, and since the other members of the court had not asked the witness about these parts either, the same applied to them. Now, regardless of what one may think of the presiding judge’s habit of reading out large parts of the respective minutes to witnesses and having them “confirm” them, claiming that he shows bias by not reading out the entirety of the minutes is more than far-fetched – after all, it is precisely the task of defense counsel to ask those exculpatory questions which they deem the court has missed. Thus this challenge was not useful for anything but “clearing the air” within the Zschäpe defence.

The decision on the challenge will come from another chamber of the court. Meanwhile, the trial and with it the questioning of the witness continued. One would have expected the defense to use this opportunity to show in what way Dienelt’s statements to the witness had been exculpatory – instead, they got lost in vague statements and questions regarding the difference between “radical right-wing” and “extreme right-wing” thought and speculations regarding the decisions of the witness back in 2011.

The testimony of Maik Eminger, twin brother of accused André Eminger and like him long-time activist in the Nazi scene, was of much shorter duration: as brother of an accused, he may refuse to testify, a right which he invoked. Eminger did, however, make a political statement earlier, by appearing in the court building wearing a T-Shirt stating “Brüder schweigen” (Brothers remain silent) – an allusion to his right to refuse to testify, but also a quote from a Waffen-SS song and a self-description of murderous Nazi terrorist group “The Order” from the United States. Victims’ counsel brought this fact to the attention of those in the courtroom, despite attempts by the defense to immediately shut down those comments.