Monthly Archives: October 2014

23 October 2014

On the fire in the Frühlingsstraße

The witness who testified today is the former defense attorney of Beate Zschäpe whom she had turned to on 8 November 2011. Zschäpe had partly waived attorney-client privilege in order to prove that she had rung the door bell of her neighbor on 4 November 2011 to ensure that her neighbor was not injured by the fire started by Zschäpe.

As mentioned before, this would, however, not tend to disprove, but rather to prove that Zschäpe had the mens rea for murder: after all, it would show that she held it to be likely that her neighbor was home and that the fire would endanger her life. After all, the defense does not claim that Zschäpe had talked to her neighbor and told her to get out of the house.
The way the defense conducted itself in the context of this testimony led to many discussions in the courtroom: the defense had only waived attorney-client privilege to a very limited extent – as several victims’ counsel remarked, their waiver basically meant that the witness was only meant to confirm the defense’s claim and not say anything else. The defense objected to all other questions, including those closely related to the topic given by the defense itself – before the witness himself had decided whether or not to rely on attorney-client privilege. The court held that most of these questions were admissible, the witness answered them, albeit in a rather desultory manner.

In any event, the defense’s plan was also substantively unsuccessful: it became clear that the statement Zschäpe had made to her ex-defense attorney did not yield much – inter alia, the witness thought that Zschäpe had lived in the same part of the house as the old lady and rung the doorbell directly in front of her apartment – in reality, the old lady had lived one door down, Zschäpe had rung the bell at the house entrance and had had no way of checking whether her neighbor, who was more than 80 years old at the time, had heard her ringing at all. At the same time, the witness statement today showed that Zschäpe had in effect admitted to her then-defense attorney that she had started the Frühlingsstraße fire.

The trial day ended with a short discussion concerning the testimony of neo-Nazi and former informer Sczepanski, who has been summoned for 4 November 2014. Sczepanski is in the witness protection program. The interior ministry of the Land of Brandenburg only consented to his testifying if this was done via video-link with audio and video distortion and (!) with the public being excluded from the courtroom in Munich. This was based on a claimed danger of neo-Nazis taking revenge for Sczepanski’s “betrayal”.Victims’ counsel stated that this prognosis was rather far-fetched – to give only one example, accused Carsten Schultze, who is also in witness protection, has been taking part in more than 150 trial days without any specific security measures and without any concrete evidence of danger to him – in fact, without even so much as a photo appearing in the press. Victims’ counsel moved that the court ask the ministry to allow the witness to testify in Munich.

22 October 2014

On the 1996 trial concerning a dummy, and on the Ceska murder weapon

The first three witnesses today were police officers who had questioned Beate Zschäpe and Ralf Wohlleben 1996 in the context of an investigation concerning incitement to hatred after a dummy wearing a yellow “Jew star” had been hung from a highway bridge and a fake bomb had been placed next to it. Police had found Böhnhardt’s fingerprint on the dummy.

The officers did not really remember the questioning they had conducted 18 years ago, but still remembered very well certain impressions they had reached at the time. The officer who had first questioned Zschäpe stated her impression that Zschäpe had made an impression of being very “together”, of always knowing exactly which topics she wanted to discuss and which she did not. She also stated that Zschäpe had always stood by her “right wing” convictions. The second officer, whom Zschäpe had presented an alibi for Böhnhardt, still remembered very well his feeling of being presented lies by the Nazi scene.

Finally the court heard a victim’s counsel as witness. He had been approached by Hans-Ulrich Müller, who according to the indictment brought the Ceska murder weapon to Thuringia, in the context of witness statements by Müller and his acquaintance in Switzerland. Müller had claimed that the gun had been sold by a Swiss gun dealer to a different man from Jena who had had extensive contacts into the Nazi scene. Müller had also claimed to be able to prove his statements, but refused to do so unless the courts provided him with immunity from prosecution.

This statement shows one thing above all: The statements of Müller, who denies all involvement in providing the gun, who within the space of one day tells one story to the Swiss prosecutor and an entirely different story to the victim’s counsel, is far from reliable. On the other hand, the statement incriminating Müller made by his acquaintance, who also provided information on Müller’s contacts to Thuringia etc., are coherent and convincing.

21 October 2014

The federal prosecution conjures up witness testimony from thin air – questioning of a witness had to be interrupted

Victims’ counsel have moved several time that the files of the investigation against unknown persons be made part of the case file. The files of these proceedings, which are directed against potential further NSU supporters, are always good for a surprise. The federal prosecutor’s office files all documents which it does not want the parties in Munich to know in this file and where parties ask for access to that file, they claim that the contents of that file are not relevant for the Munich trial or that granting access would endanger the investigation. In the past, this file turned out to contain such gems as the minutes of police interviews with former informer Michael See and Hammerskin Thomas Gerlach, who testified last week.

And this case file again became relevant today. Smack in the middle of the testimony of the first witness – the former girlfriend of Hans-Ulrich Müller, who according to the indictment had brought the murder weapon Ceska to Germany – prosecutor Diemer asked presiding judge Götzl whether he was not in possession of the minutes of that woman’s 18 June 2004 interview. He was not – hardly surprising as those minutes had only been sent from the federal prosecution’s headquarter in Karlsruhe to the prosecutors in Munich the same morning. Naturally the questioning of the witness had to be interrupted in order to grant the parties an opportunity to read those minutes. Not only does this lead to a further delay of the trial – something victims’ counsel are often claimed to be responsible for when they ask “too many” questions. More importantly, the questions remains what other important testimony and other investigations the prosecution has parked by in the case file against unknown persons in order to keep it secret and bring it to light only when needed for its plans.

The same question became relevant in the afternoon. A police detective from the land of Baden-Württemberg related her investigations – based on the list of names found next to the bombs in the garage searched in 1998, she and her colleagues had investigated what contacts “the Three” had to Baden-Württemberg and had found several witnesses who had often been in contact with them. Among others, witness statements had shown “the Three” to have been in Ludwigsburg in 1999 and 2001 – witness statements which are not known to the parties. A secret service informer had also stated that Mundlos had talked to him about bank robberies – testimony which is not known to the parties and apparently buried in the case file against unknown persons because the federal prosecution deems it “not relevant”.

16 October 2014

Thomas Gerlach: flat-out refusal to testify successful – “Brüder Schweigen”

Witness Thomas Gerlach had to come to Munich three times in order to finally be successful against presiding judge Götzl with his strategy of simply refusing to testify. Already during his questioning on 1 July 2014 and 10 July 2014, Gerlach had stated quite clearly that he would not make statements concerning the Hammerskin organization since that would not be in line with his “code of honor.”

Presiding judge Götzl had threatened him with fines and detention for contempt each time. The Wohlleben defense had brought into play a ten year-old investigation against the Hammerskins which they claimed could give Gerlach a right to refuse to testify.

Götzl had requested and received the case files of that investigation, but had apparently not dealt with it in any detail. Today, his questioning was directed at the imposition of detention for contempt. However in the early afternoon, after the hearing had been interrupted several times, he stated quite surprisingly that Gerlach had a right to refuse to answer all questions having to do with the Hammerskins.

This is a finding which the presiding judge could already have reached in July had he considered the question then. Now he provided the Wohlleben defense with an opportunity for showboating and Gerlach with a victory over the court. What’s more, Gerlach could from then on refuse to answer unpleasant questions from victims’ counsel by claiming that they concerned the Hammerskins.

What nonetheless remains clear is that Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe must have remained in close contact with the Nazi scene after the dissolution of “Blood & Honour”. Both accused André Eminger, who supported them since their flight to Chemnitz, and accused Ralf Wohlleben had close contacts to the “Hammerskins” which filled the hole left by “Blood & Honour.“

The crowning event of the day was that accused Eminger wore a greeting to his brother in spirit in the form of a T-Shirt stating that “Brüder schweigen – bis in den Tod” (“Brothers keep silent – until death”). “Brüder schweigen” is not only a quote from a Waffen-SS song, but also a self-description of murderous Nazi terrorist group “The Order” from the United States, which committed several murders and other attacks and which is deeply revered by “Blood & Honour” as well as the Hammerskins. Eminger’s brother, Maik Eminger, had already worn such a shirt when he was summoned as a witness on 29 July 2014. The Nazi scene uses such events to show its bond, but also to make a mockery of the trial. All the more important that all available methods be used to uncover the NSU’s structure and its network of supporters.

15 October 2014

The NSU support network: Leader of „Blood and Honour“ Saxony refuses to testify.

The former leader of “Blood and Honour” Saxony, Jan Werner, refused to testify in order not to incriminate himself. Werner was not only in close contact with all those “Blood and Honour” members and sympathizers who had supported the NSU, but had also himself organized phone calls between the three who had gone underground and Wohlleben. The evidence heard so far leads to the assumption that “B&H” and the NSU had worked together closely at least until “B&H” came into the focus of law enforcement and was later banned.

Werner’s refusal to testify does render it more difficult to elucidate the facts concerning the NSU’s support network, but it least saves the parties from another testimony along the lines of “I don’t know anything.” What’s frustrating is that the case file does not show the federal prosecutor’s office actually trying to investigate Werner – it is likely that the investigation against him, on the basis of which he refused to testify today, will simply be discontinued without fanfare.

The court then read out two 1997 judgments concerning Uwe Böhnhardt as well as the minutes of two police interviews of Böhnhardt as an accused.

14 October 2014

On Zschäpe’s mens rea for murder and on the CD „NSU/NSDAP“

The important events of this trial day concerned statements by parties on the evidence taken so far.

Victims’ counsel made a statement on the testimony of Thomas Rothe which stressed that Rothe not only had to know of the criminal proceedings against “the Three” while they were living with him, but also that he continued to conduct common political activities with them. The relationship of trust was such that he knew their apartment in Zwickau where they lived for a long time while they were carrying out murders. The massive support provided by “Blood & Honour” Chemnitz will be considered tomorrow when Jan Werner, “Section leader” of “B&H Saxony” is summoned testify.

The Zschäpe defense made a statement on the testimony of the old lady whose life had been endangered by the fire in the Frühlingsstraße apartment, and on the testimony of police officers who had questioned her. The old lady’s health had taken a dramatic turn for the worse after the fire, leading to her being incapable of testifying. The defense claims that this was the fault of the court, which had not done enough to enable an early questioning. They also claim that some of her statements to police officers who that Zschäpe may have rung the old lady’s doorbell shortly after starting the fire – statements which the defense could not ask her about.

It thus seems that the defense is also of the opinion that it was Zschäpe who started the fire. Zschäpe seems to be hoping that the possibility of her ringing the doorbell will lead the court to find that Zschäpe hoped her neighbor was not at home and thus did not have the requisite mens rea for murder. However, there is no basis for such an assumption – quite to the contrary, her ringing the doorbell would show that Zschäpe knew full well that her neighbor was very likely at home. Since she also knew of her neighbor’s impaired mobility, which made her very slow in reacting to the doorbell or in fleeing from the fire, Zschäpe thus found it likely that she might die in the fire. The claim that Zschäpe had rung the doorbell, far from weakening the case for murder, rather strengthens it. The short statement in that regard by a victim’s counsel led to visible reactions by Zschäpe and discussions with her attorneys.

The federal prosecutor’s office gave their answer to an earlier objection by the defense, who had objected to the consideration in the judgment of the bombs found in the search of the Garage in 1998. The prosecution stated that the search had been lawful and all results of that search could be considered.

Finally, the prosecution also gave their statement on a motion by victims’ counsel for certain evidence to be taken in relation to the “NSU/NSDAP”-CD which had apparently been given to the domestic secret service already in 2005. They claimed that it was only an assumption that this CD concerned the NSU and that the NSU was thus known already in 2005 and that there were ongoing intense investigations which could be endangered if evidence was taken in court. According to them, there was currently no reason to believe in a connection to the accused or the NSU. This statement, which is based on specious arguments, shows once again that the federal prosecutor’s office is not really interested in clearing up the NSU’s crimes and more interested in whitewashing federal agencies and keeping alive the claim that the NSU consisted only of three people.

9 October 2014

More testimony on the murder weapon.

After the testimony of the Swiss police officer yesterday, the court today heard testimony from a Swiss prosecutor who had questioned Hans-Ulrich Müller and his acquaintance. His testimony too confirmed the evidence taken so far: Müller’s acquaintance confirmed that he had sold the papers for buying a gun to Müller for 400 Swiss francs, that Müller had told him that he was planning to sell the gun in Germany where it was hard for “certain people” to get their hands on guns, and that Müller had told him it was better for him if he did not ask any more questions. Müller denied everything, but his statements were contradictory.

Like yesterday, the defense Wohlleben tried everything to have the witness state that Müller’s acquaintance had been subjected to undue pressure. Like yesterday, the witness explained clearly that such pressure had not existed. The prosecutor had even arranged for a “confrontative questioning” with Müller and his acquaintance to allow the former to pose questions to the latter and thus to verify the latter’s testimony.

The situation therefore is still the same as in early July (see the reports of 1 July 2014 and 3 July 2014): the trial proceedings have not shown any reason to doubt that Wohlleben is guilty as charged.

8 October 2014

More on the Ceska murder weapon.

Today marked the final day of the testimony of a Swiss police officer who had already testified at length on investigations concerning where the NSU murder weapon had come from. He had questioned Hans-Ulrich Müller, who brought the gun to Thuringia, and an acquaintance of Müller’s who had provided him with the necessary paperwork to buy the gun in his, the acquaintance’s name.

His testimony today did not lead to any new developments (see already the reports of 16/17 September 2014 and 18 September 2014). The Wohlleben defense again objected to his statements being considered in the judgment, claiming that the police had put undue pressure on the witnesses – a claim without a basis in fact. The defense also moved that two Swiss police officers be heard as witnesses. They had conducted an investigation against the proprietors of the gun shop from which Müller had bought the gun, who had been suspected of selling guns to people not allowed to receive them. No matter whether that evidence is in fact taken and what it leads to, there is no way it could call into question the chain of evidence concerning the Ceska pistol and above all Wohlleben’s role in providing it. The court has already dealt extensively with that evidence in its decision to continue the detention of Wohlleben (see the reports of 1 July 2014 and 3 July 2014).

In front of the court building, spectators could witness another example showing the German Nazi scene mocking the trial: Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, leader of the armed Nazi gang “Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann”, showed up and exchanged pleasantries inter alia with the Wohlleben defense.

7 October 2014

More „Blood and Honour“ Chemnitz – more lies and trivialization.

Today saw the further testimony of Thomas Rothe from Chemnitz, who had provided shelter to Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt right after they had gone underground. Rothe tried again (see already the reports of 1 April 2014 and 29 July 2014) to ward off all questions with a simple “can’t recall”, and again, he was largely successful, at least in his questioning by presiding judge Götzl.

The Zschäpe defence, apparently in reaction to the discontent of their client, showed more activities and also referred to Zschäpe’s own knowledge. Counsel Sturm told the witness that according to her knowledge, Mundlos had lived with Rothe during a period of several weeks. However Rothe, not interested in helping elucidate the facts, also denied this.

What Rothe did state in answer to a question by the Zschäpe defence was that he had not only provided shelter to “the Three” in Chemnitz, but that he had also visited them several times in their later apartments in Chemnitz and in Zwickau. He had met several times with Mundlos alone, had been friends with him. Mundlos had also helped him several times with computer problems – most likely concerning his own Nazi zine “Sachsens Glanz” (roughly: “The Radiance of Saxony”) or the “B&H-“zine „White Youth”.

Once again it was up to victims’ counsel to tease out the extent to which the witness was embedded in the militant Nazi scene. Rothe was an “aspirant” to full membership in “Blood & Honour”, knew all the important people, was involved not only in organizing concerts, but also in producing zines. His own zine “Sachsens Glanz” led to him being sent many other publications and records. The reviews of records and zines contained in “Sachsens Glanz” bring together the worst in aggressive, violent Neonazi propaganda of the 1990s.

At least one of Rothe’s answers was an obvious lie: he stated that it was only in a TV show “criminal police live” that he had heard of the earlier crimes of “the Three”, including the hanging of a dummy with a Star of David from a highway bridge. However, in that TV show, which has already been shown in the courtroom, this incident is not mentioned at all.

The testimony of a police officer who had questioned Enrico Theile did not bring to the fore anything new.

At the end of the trial day, victims’ counsel made a statement on the testimony of Tino Brandt, stressing the importance of his statement concerning the “Community of Conviction for the New Front” (Gesinnungsgemeinschaft der Neuen Front, GdnF) (see the report of 30 September/1 October 2014).

The prosecution commented on several motions by victims’ counsel for certain evidence to be heard, stating its consent to several witnesses being summoned. This concerns above all GdnF cadre Kai Dalek, who for many years was also an informer for the Bavarian domestic secret service.

7 to 9 October 2014 – Preview

The court has – once again – summoned Thomas Rothe to testify on Tuesday. Rothe was one of the earliest supporters of “the Three” in Chemnitz. The court will also hear testimony from a police officer who had questioned Enrico Theile (see the report of 5 September 2014).

Wednesday and Thursday will again be concerned with the investigations in Switzerland into the chain of custody of the Ceska murder weapon. A police officer and a prosecutor from Switzerland will testify (see the report of 16/17 September 2014).