Monthly Archives: January 2015

29 January 2015

Zschäpe defense tries to get rid of victim’s counsel – and thus to divert attention from evidence concerning a “documented confession” by Zschäpe.

The taking of evidence today was overshadowed by arguments concerning the right of several Keupstraße victims to join the trial as private accessory prosecutors. This had already started yesterday when it became clear that certain victims’ counsel had courted potential clients rather aggressively and had apparently brought motions to join the proceedings without having cleared up details with the victims and had claimed injuries which were somewhat unclear. The Zschäpe defense apparently saw its chance not only to divert attention from the evidence heard today, which was dramatically incriminating for their client, but also to attack victims’ counsel whom they had frequently quarreled with.

In the afternoon, the therapist of a private accessory prosecutor who had already testified as a witness last week took the stand. The Zschäpe defense started to question him very intensely in the apparent hope of having him state that the witness had not suffered psychological damage as a result of the bombing attack but that her panic attacks – the existence of which no one doubts – stemmed from childhood events. The therapist did not agree – the childhood events had led to a depression, but this manifested in totally different symptoms than the panic attacks. His client had told him that the attacks had started to appear after the bombing attack and had grown more severe over time. In 2011 she was in a movie theatre when a war scene in the movie caused a severe panic attack necessitating emergency medical help and a trip to the hospital; in fact the ambulance had to stop on the way to the hospital in order for her to be given emergency medical attention right on the spot. He concluded that the events in the movie, which were similar to those of the bombing attack, had caused the panic attack at that time. Today he would consider changing his diagnosis to “post traumatic stress syndrome” caused by the bombing attack.

After his testimony, the woman’s counsel, Alexander Hoffmann, one of the two authors of this blog, made a statement in which he stressed that the defense actions – the intensive and protracted questioning of the therapist and the attempt to accuse his client of false statements concerning her psychological injuries – was inappropriate. In response, Zschäpe defense attorney Wolfgang Heer announced that the defense was preparing a motion to be brought next week that the court rescind her right, as well as that of two others, to join the proceedings as private accessory prosecutors.

Such a motion is bound to fail as it could only succeed in this case if there had been false statements in the motion to join the proceedings. The witness discussed here was not physically injured in the attack and has never claimed to have been injured. The Higher Regional Court of Munich has allowed her, as well as other persons not physically injured, to join the proceedings because they were close enough to the nail bomb that it must be assumed that the perpetrators also wanted to kill them. In connection with the nail bomb, Zschäpe thus stands accused of attempted murder of 21 persons and of causing grave bodily injury to 17 of them. The set of facts before the court after the testimony of this witness, of her physician and of her therapists, is exactly the same as that on which the court based its decision to allow her to join the proceedings.

In other words: these people have been allowed as private accessory prosecutors not because of any actual physical injuries caused by the bomb, but because the bomb targeted them as well, because the NSU killers tried to kill all people in the vicinity of the bomb, including these witnesses. Trying to differentiate between these victims of attempted murder and „real victims“, on the basis that the killers‘ plans did not come to fruition with regard to them, is not only cynical. Moreover, it is another attempt – after the investigations of the police and the statements in the press directed against the Keupstraße from 2004 to 2011 – to spread discord among the people in the Keupstraße and to make some of them from victims to perpetrators (in this case of alleged false statements to the court).

What’s most grating about this whole discussion – or rather sham discussion – is that it diverts attention from the important evidence heard today – and this evidence was quite spectacular:
First, two residents of the house opposite the explosion site – who, by the way, were not of Turkish origin – testified on what they had witnessed. A man had just turned onto the property in his car when the bomb exploded. The entire roof of the car was caved in, nails were stuck in the facade of the house two stories high. Next witness was his mother in law, who had the same difficulties as other witnesses before her to explain her psychological injuries to the satisfaction of presiding judge Götzl. She reported that she often wakes up at night from the sound of car doors being thrown shut and remembers the events, that she generally has trouble sleeping. What did raise some attention was her statement that, within six to twelve months, she had lost over 30 pounds of weight. It became apparent that the life of this witness, too, is still influenced by the bomb eleven years after the explosion.

The most important witness today was a police officer who had analyzed a DVD found in the remains of the NSU flat in the Frühlingsstraße. It is likely that other police officers who have dealt with this DVD will also have to testify. The DVD contained two folders named “killer” and “for the action-dvd”. The folder “killer” contained inter alia lists of names and addresses, apparently of potential targets for NSU crimes. Among those were several in Cologne, two of which, including a daycare for children, were situated in the Keupstraße. Other entries include refugee residences, gun shops, but also the address of a prosecutor in Siegen. The folder also contained three designs for member or personnel IDs of two tennis clubs and a hotel in Nürnberg, Burgdorf and Frankfurt, all showing a picture of Zschäpe and under the name of Mandy Struck.

They also contained written “bets” between Zschäpe and Böhnhardt on weight loss goals. Among the wagers was “200 video cuts”. Since none of the computers contained any other videos which could require that amount of editing, it is clear what this was about: the wager concerned the editing of the video in which the NSU claimed responsibility for its crimes. This shows that Zschäpe too worked on that video, an important evidence for her being a co-perpetrator of the NSU crimes. In these written bets, Mundlos goes by the name of “killer”, Zschäpe by “Liese” and Böhnhardt by “cleaner”. This could be a clue as to the division of tasks when committing the murders, with Mundlos firing the lethal shots, Böhnhardt shooting “for safety” and being responsible for avoiding evidence such as cartridges. The DVD also shows that Zschäpe was a full member of the group and directly involved in foundational activities such as the editing of the NSU video. The three even made “jokes” about the murders. Victim’s counsel Sebastian Scharmer, in a statement after the detective’s testimony, rightly called the DVD a “documented confession” by Beate Zschäpe.

28 January 2015

Keupstraße: who was in danger?
And: how serious can one take Schultze’s “distancing” himself from the Nazi scene?

The first witnesses today were three members of a family who testified on how they witnessed the Keupstraße bomb. The mother had been less than 30 meters from the bomb and had been lucky to mostly suffer a severe fright as well as injuries to her ear drums. She reported that loud noises such as fireworks still led to her recalling her experiences of the explosion and that is still only able to sleep soundly maybe two nights per week.

The testimony of her son led to irritation and to some indignation particularly among reporters present when he reported he first stated that at the moment of the explosion, he had been in his car in the Schanzenstraße, a cross street to the Keupstraße. Presiding judge Götzl told him in a quite severe tone that his counsel had told the court in his motion for permission to join the case that he had been in the area of explosion of the bomb. This confusion was cleared up during the testimony of his sister: her brother had in fact been in his car at the intersection of the Schanzenstraße and the Keupstraße, about 25 meters from the bomb and thus in an area where severe injuries might well have occurred.

The Wohlleben defense asked for a short interruption in order to discuss whether to bring a motion. Apparently they had hoped to use the inconsistencies in order to attack the legitimacy of victims’ counsel. In the end, they did not bring a motion, likely because they did not see any angle. Wohlleben is not charged in connection with the Keupstraße attack – there is evidence that he had bought and sold electronics very similar to those used in the bomb, but this is not enough to charge him with concrete acts of aiding and abetting.

The final witness today was a former co-worker of accused Schultze with an AIDS support group in Düsseldorf. Schultze had told him in November of 2011 that he had provided Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt with a gun. The witness did not remember any relevant details with regard to the gun. What was interesting, however, was what had told him about his Nazi activities: He had stated that he had been active in the “Thuringia Home Guard” and had been proud that “his youth group” was the only one whose members had not fought with each other, making his activities in the Nazi scene appear almost like “social work”.

The witness stated that in November of 2011, after the death of Böhnhardt and Mundlos and the uncovering of the NSU, Schultze had been very nervous. He had then told him about the gun. Asked what he had thought back then what would happen with that gun, he had answered “nothing at all.” The witness did not believe him, but also stated that such an answer was quite typical for Schultze.

Apparently, Schultze’s coming out and his entry into the gay scene in Düsseldorf happened without any actual break or concrete distancing from his Nazi past. If Schultze had given up his knowledge early on – after all, antifascist groups had uncovered his Nazi past in Jena –, this might not only have led to an early uncovering of the NSU, but also to a considerable sentence reduction for Schultze – something which is hard to imagine today. This was far from a commendable “exit” and distancing from the Nazi scene.

27 January 2015

Keupstraße victims: how does one prove fear and mental anguish?

Today the court heard several witnesses who were in the range of the explosion, but who did not suffer serious bodily injury. Accordingly, their statements were much less spectacular than those of the witnesses last week, many of whom were severely injured. Sadly this also led to presiding judge Götzl rushing through the taking of evidence. Despite the fact that some of these witnesses have been allowed to join the proceedings as private accessory prosecutors as they are victims of attempted murder, the court has troubles in taking seriously the anxiety and other psychological damages suffered by these victims.

Interestingly, while these witnesses differed in the way they reported on these events, the core of their statements was very similar. All of them had heard and felt the explosion, some of them had suffered inner ear injuries, and they all reported on their ongoing anxiety triggered most of all by the nails some of which hit a shop 100 meters from the explosion.

Some of them had not gone to doctors or therapists with their problems, some had done so grudgingly, either because they did not want to admit their problems to themselves or due to unspecified fears. It became clear once again that the Keupstraße victims would have needed a program of psycho-social support, which however nobody offered to them.

Pretty much all of them also reported that the police had treated them “like perpetrators”, had asked them time again about their contacts to “mafia”, PKK or Hizbullah even though they told detectives clearly that this bombing attack could only have come from racists and Nazis. One witness even reported that one detective had made shushing gestures and noised and had ordered him to never again talk about racists and Nazis.

One witness had seen Böhnhardt carefully push the bicycle with the bomb towards the Keupstraße. She reported that she had been shown the video footage from the Viva building, but that she had not been shown pictures of German suspects from the Nazi scene – such pictures would have included Böhnhardt and Mundlos who were wanted for explosives offenses in Jena, allowing an uncovering of the entire NSU at this point in time.

Another witness, who was on his motorcycle, had almost been hit by a bicyclist cycling away from the scene of the explosion at very high speed. He had told the police about this the same day and had also later connected the pictures from the video camera with that bicyclist, but he had never been seriously interviewed by the police. He also described the way the police had treated the victims of the attack, some of which were still covered in blood. One of them had told him “this is not normal, they are trying to tell us that we did this to ourselves!”

22 January 2015

More testimony by Keupstraße victims.

Today several more Keupstraße victims testified as witnesses. The first witness was the restaurateur from the Keupstraße who was in the barber shop as a customer when the bomb exploded. He showed up in court wearing a T-shirt of the solidarity initiative “Keupstraße is everywhere”.

The witness was comparatively luck to “only” sustain an injury to the ear-drum, he also managed to leave the psychological after-effects behind rather quickly. However, he reported on the enormous economic damage suffered due to the suspicions voiced against the Keupstraße by the police and in the press – many of the former customers of shops and restaurants, particularly those of German origin, simply did not dare go there anymore.
Like many, the witness had immediately realized that this was a racist attack and had told the police that he did not believe that “the bouncers” were responsible: “I think that this has a radical right background. They are trying to disrupt the coexistence of the Turks in the street.” Today, he referred to that statement and expressed his hope that people of Turkish and of German origin are able to return to a coexistence based on trusting each other.

The next witness was a young woman who was advanced in pregnancy and lying down in her flat on the opposite side of the street when the bomb exploded. When she looked out of her window, she saw scenes of destruction, the many injured persons with bloody wounds – a picture, the witness reported today, which is still in her head today. Seeing the nails on the ground, the witness imagined what would have happened if her seven year old son had played on the street as he often does. It is far from surprising that the witness still suffers immensely from the psychological damage inflicted on that day.

Further witnesses reported similar details. Several of them stressed once more that they were very disappointed by the police investigation, which was directed mostly against them and the others in the Keupstraße. Even a former officer of the Turkish army – hardly a natural ally of those suspected by the police, namely the “red light district milieu” and the PKK – was questioned rather intensively and asked at first not to leave Germany.

At the end of the trial day, the court heard the report of a bomb expert on experiments with bombs built to function like the Keupstraße nail bomb. These showed that many of the nails were easily able to penetrate metal sheets of 1.5 mm thickness in a distance of 5 meters – a human being hit in the head or the torso by such a nail would likely suffer fatal injuries. However, the area in which fatal injuries could be expected was likely much larger – many of the nails had more than 2.5 times the kinetic energy required for fatal wounds, i.e. being hit would have been fatal even over much larger distances. Many witnesses today related that it was only due to luck that they had not been hit by the nails, e.g. because a car was parked between them and the bomb.

In addition, there was a very significant danger of injury due to fragments of the gas container used as the body of the bomb – during the experiments, these were found up to 55m from the site of the explosion. The leading expert witness on the issue of the bomb will report next week.
The Zschäpe defense again showed itself from its most unpleasant side: when one of the witnesses, who was visibly very nervous, began his statement with a few introductory sentences in order to ease into the topics at hand, defense counsel Heer interrupted him rather quickly and demanded that he immediately get to the point. The presiding judge chose not to play such undignified games and allowed the witness to proceed on his own pace – unsurprisingly, it took just a few more introductory sentences after which he turned to the events of 9 June 2004.
During the entire week, it was refreshing to see that the Keupstraße victims were able, with the support and solidarity of [link] “Keupstraße is everywhere” and other supporters present outside the courtroom, to tell their story. The witnesses took the space they needed to report not only on the crime itself and on their injuries, but also on the way they themselves were considered suspects, on the way the trust among neighbors was destroyed by suspicions voiced by the police – all those things which many from the Keupstraße now call “the attack after the attack.”

Next week, the court will hear several more victims from the Keupstraße as well as the expert witnesses.

21 January 2015

„Solidarity was lacking“: More victims of the nail bomb attack in the Keupstraße.

Today more victims of the nail bomb attack in the Keupstraße testified as witnesses.
One thing that was common to all their testimonies was that they are still suffering immensely from the psychological damage inflicted on them. To give only one example, the owner of a shop opposite the barber shop, who was comparatively lucky to be hit by “only” three nails as more were absorbed by a parked car, stated: “Today, when I sit on the Keupstraße and see a bicyclist passing through, I my first thought is that it could happen again.”

The fate of a woman from the shop next to the barber shop again shows that the German authorities did not treat the people from the Keupstraße like “normal” victims: Immediately after the explosion, she had seen one the severely injured young men, had doused the flames still burning around his legs, had lost consciousness shortly thereafter – in other words, she was obviously deeply traumatized. The normal cause of action in case of any larger accident, let alone a large-scale crime, would be to immediately provide such victims with a trauma therapy. Not in the case of this witness: she did start psychotherapy, but was told after a few sessions that further sessions would not be covered. Only after the self-uncovering of the NSU in 2011, she was aided in finding a therapist able to deal with her case – whom she is still seeing as the psychological injuries are still present today.

Another customer of the barber shop, who luckily only suffered minor injuries to his hearing, summarized his feelings thus: “After 2011, my opinion has changed, I would say: solidarity was lacking.” He too was asked by the police what he knew of the red light district milieu, of the PKK, whether he was in contact with them, his DNA and fingerprints were taken – all this, it should be stressed, after the police already had photos showing the perpetrators to be of Western/Central European origin.

A similar fate befell the three men who in the police file are often referred to as customers from the “bouncer scene” – three young family men then in their early Thirties and working in such “suspicious” jobs as electricians and forklift operator. After their wounds had been cared for in the hospital, they too were questioned for several hours by the police and asked what they knew about the red light district milieu, drugs, the PKK. They too were asked to give their fingerprints and DNA samples. It was very touching to listen to those three men, all young and physically strong, tell in a rather open and emotional manner about the psychological injuries they are still suffering from today – sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of large crowds of people etc.

The final witness was the barber who was severely injured in the attack and who is the brother of the barber shop’s owner. He had seen the perpetrator placing the bicycle and had been able to describe him to the police quite well. He had described him as light-skinned and blonde – which did not keep the Cologne police from treating the victim, his family and the other people of Turkish origin in the Keupstraße as suspects, from tailing the victim over a period of several weeks in 2006 (!). He also reported on the severe economic damage suffered by the barber shop, but also by the other shop and restaurant owners in the Keupstraße: due to the many suspicions voiced by the police and the media, the number of people visiting the Keupstraße and the shops in the street declined drastically.

Thus the trial day showed once more that the bombers luckily did not realize their main goal of killing as many people as possible – but that they fully achieved their goal of bringing as much pain as suffering as possible to the Keupstraße. It was therefore a great relief to see that the people from the Keupstraße have not lost their will to fight – as shown in the very powerful rally and demonstration yesterday, but also in the answer of one of the witnesses – who described himself as a “Turkish-German Cologne-bred (“Kölscher” in the regional dialect) boy” – to the question whether he had thought of leaving Cologne and Germany: “No, why should I? I live in Cologne, that’s my home town, Germany is my home country. Why should I leave?”

20 January 2015

First witness statements on the nail bomb in the Keupstraße – and on the „bomb after the bomb“.

Today, the court heard the first witness statements of those injured by the nail bomb attack on 9 June 2004 in the Keupstraße in Cologne. Their witness statements were followed by statements from surgeons who had treated their injuries.

First to testify were two young men who had walked directly past the bomb when it exploded. They reported on their experiences in a very composed manner, which could not however mask how much they suffer to this day. Both were hit by several nails which embedded themselves in their legs and backs, they suffered fractures, serious burns, injuries to their ear drums and further injuries, both are still dealing with the aftereffects of these injuries today. Of course, the psychological damages were just as serious: both reported very clearly how long it took them to get back to a normal life; both are still in treatment with therapists.

Their statements affirmed the impression left by the statements of the police bomb experts last week: that none of the two suffered life-threatening injuries is only due to severe luck. One of the surgeons stated that, had his patient stood a bit further away from the bomb, he would have been hit in the torso instead of the legs and lower back – better not to think about the injuries they would have caused then.

The witnesses also reported on what people in Cologne call „the bomb after the bomb”: the suspicions raised against the victims, against the people in the Keupstraße by the police. Thus the two friends were not allowed to talk to each other during the first two weeks of their hospital stay as they were suspected of having planted the bomb. Later, the police took their photos as well as fingerprints and DNA samples.

One of them had, already in his first police interview in the hospital, voiced his suspicion that this bomb had been planted by Nazis in order to kill as many foreigners as possible. Today, he summarized his thoughts as follows: “That’s self-explanatory if I detonate a bomb in the middle of the day in a street where old ladies and kids are passing by – you don’t have to be a detective to see that.” This statement was met with applause from the public gallery, much to displeasure of presiding judge Götzl. As is well-known, the police did not follow up on this rather reasonable suspicion voiced by this witness and many others.

The fate of the next witness, who was a customer in the barber shop in front of which the bomb was placed, was quite similar: He also suffered several injuries due to nails and glass fragments, he still suffers from the psychological aftereffects such as sleep disorders, panic attacks brought about by being in large gatherings of people, etc. The witness, who was self-employed before the attack, is still incapable of working today.

Another victim stated in summary that he had fled from Turkey as a political refugee, only to suffer in Germany what he had managed to avoid in Turkey.

All in all, the day left no doubt that there is no possible explanation for the fact that the police did not investigate possible racist motivations for this attack and instead chose to investigate and criminalize the victims.

Through the day, victims and their supporters held a rally in front of the court building. At the end of the trial day, they held a demonstration from the court building towards Munich’s inner city, which was attended by about 1.500 people. The demonstrators, led and organized by solidarity initiative [link] “Keupstraße is everywhere” from Cologne, thus showed that they will keep up the public pressure to investigate and clear up the NSU’s crimes.

13 January 2015

Further testimony of former informer Carsten Szczepanski. And: The end of the common front – motions for evidence brought by the Wohlleben defense

The first witness today was the police bomb expert who finished his testimony on the nail bomb in the Keupstraße in Cologne. The court then continued with the questioning of former secret service informer Carsten Szczepanski (we reported on the first day of his testimony on 3 December 2014).

As was to be expected, his testimony was a rather sluggish affair, his memory of (or his will to remember) former “comrades”, names and dates rather bad. Szcepanski did, at least, report rather openly on the scene’s ideology and propensity towards violence. Victims’ counsel summarized the results of his questioning in an oral statement of which a summary is available (in German) here. One of the conclusions to be drawn is that the Nazi scene in the 1990s was openly calling for racist violence and for “armed struggle”. Shockingly, the witness was able to continue his political activities throughout the period of being an informer for the secret service – inter alia, he continued publishing an extremely violent zine even while being imprisoned, even vetting articles with the service before publishing them.

Szczepanski had told the service that Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt were in Chemnitz and being supported by the local “Blood and Honour” section, but no arrests followed – showing that the secret service was simply not interested in combating Nazism and in arresting them.
Szczepanski had originally been called to testify both today and tomorrow; as his testimony was finished today, presiding judge Götzl simply cancelled tomorrow’s trial day.

At the end of the trial day, the Wohlleben defense brought a number of motions for evidence, which all contain one core claim, namely that it was not Ralf Wohlleben who was the central figure among those supporting the three who had gone underground, but that the support was provided mainly by “Blood & Honour” Saxony, who were responsible for the radicalization of Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos which ended in the NSU murders and who also provided them with the guns used. In order to prove this claim, the defense moved that all relevant members of B&H Saxony as well as the former leaders of B&H Thuringia and B&H Germany be called to testify.

As clearly visibly in the expressions of Zschäpe defense attorneys Heer and Stahl, this is a serious distancing of the Wohlleben defense from that of co-accused Zschäpe. Interestingly, the witnesses the defense wishes to question are party of the very scene on which the court has focused, largely based on motions by victims’ counsel, in the last weeks and months – a focus criticized not only by the federal prosecution and the Zschäpe defense, but also by the defense of Ralf Wohlleben. Victims’ counsel, who were criticized for allegedly delaying the trial, can take these motions as a sign that they were on the right track – particularly as some of the defense motions were based on insider knowledge, e.g. a claim that Böhnhardt and Mundlos were present at the meeting in which B&H Saxony decided on its own dissolution.

At the same time, it is more than unlikely that the Wohlleben defense will succeed in its attempt to present their client as rather harmless and clueless (compared to B&H Saxony) and thus as innocent. Both the objective evidence and the statement by co-accused Schultze clearly show that Schultze and Wohlleben had provided “the Three” with a silenced pistol, a weapon which could only have been needed for acts of political assassination.

The Wohlleben defense has obviously read the signs inherent in the court’s denial of its last motion to release Wohlleben from pre-trial detention: Wohlleben faces a very long prison term because the evidence shows he provided the silenced Ceska pistol, because it is clear from his involvement, next to Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos, in the so-called “Volkstod”-campaign, from his knowledge of the extreme aggression and propensity for violence of Uwe Böhnhardt, that he knew exactly whom he provided with that murder weapon. The motions brought today are an attempt to use the recently uncovered facts concerning Chemnitz supporters in order to pass the buck to them. Of course, Böhnhardt and Mundlos had already received material for building bombs from B&H in Chemnitz, had already set up a bomb workshop in Jena, had in other words had the tools for conducting bombing attacks, the requisite mens rea as well as connections to B&H, already at a time when they were still in Jena and thus still very close to Wohlleben both politically and personally – a fact which the defense motions omit to mention. The absence of proof of contact between Wohlleben and B&H Saxony in the period between 1998 and the early 2000s is likely to be explained by the fact that the police were conducting investigations against him for the explosives crimes in Jena, which led him as the central supporter of “the Three” to try to keep a low profile.

12 January 2015

First evidence concerning the bombing attack in the Keupstraße in Cologne

Today the court heard the first witnesses concerning the NSU’s nail bomb
attack in the Keupstraße in Cologne. The first two witnesses, two arson
and explosives detectives, vividly described the extreme danger
emanating from the bomb, which contained more than 5 kilograms of black
powder and more than 700 large nails and which led to burst windows up
to 150 meters from the site of the explosion. The bomb was triggered
remotely with components used in building model airplanes.

That the NSU murderers did not succeed in their plan to kill people with
this bomb was a very lucky coincidence. The injuries – including life
threatening injuries – of several people in the Keupstraße will be
considered in the following weeks; those injured in the attack will
testify in court on 20 January 2015 and the following trial days.