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.