11 February 2015

On the dangerousness of the Keupstraße nail bomb – and on the most brazen Nazi witness yet.

The first witness today was Bernd Tödter, leader of neo-Nazi group “Storm 18” from Kassel and just recently released from pre-trial detention after receiving a 30 month sentence for violent crimes. Tödter appeared in the outfit of a classical 1990s Nazi skinhead, with shaved head and a “Storm 18” shirt under a bomber jacket.

During an earlier incarceration, he had told the police that he could report on a meeting with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt in 2006, shortly before the murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel. Today Tödter tried to disavow his earlier statements – and achieved to combine perjury and resufal to testify more brazenly than any witness before him. At first he relied on the privilege against self-incrimination. When presiding judge Götzl told him that the privilege did not apply to him, he answered “In that case, I don’t remember anything.” The presiding judge tried very patiently to ask Tödter about his earlier statements to the police, but he remained stubborn in his refusal. His testimony was interrupted and will be continued tomorrow – it remains to be seen whether he will face fines or detention for refusal to testify or “just” a perjury trial.

In the afternoon, the two expert witnesses reported on the functioning and effects of the Keupstraße nail bomb. Their reports showed again that it was a massive stroke of luck that nobody died: bomb expert Dr. Mölle had calculated that even at distances far beyond 25 meters, the nails had a kinetic energy which would have made fatal injuries very likely in case of hits to the head or torso of persons. As to the splinters of the gas bottle itself, coroner Dr. Peschel calculated that its kinetic energy was somewhere between a bullet from a very large-caliber rifle and that from a machine gun. Even in distances of up to 100 metres, Peschel concluded, serious injuries could have been expected.

Peschel’s report concluded with a listing of the various injuries actually incurred, a frightening list comprising inter alia cornea injuries, broken bones, burn injuries and life-threatening injuries due to inhalation of gastric acid. In addition, there are the many psychological injuries suffered, on which Dr. Peschel, not being a psychiatrist, did not report in detail. However, he stated quite clearly that anxiety disorders as a part of post-traumatic stress disorder were a typical reaction in victims of this type of crime and that in some cases these disorders become chronic. However, he added, a courtroom is not the place to try detailed diagnoses of individual cases. Typically, the Zschäpe defense tried to interrupt and rebuke the expert witness during these statements.

One thing became crystal clear once more: all those Keupstraße residents who have testified as witnesses were present in an area in which there was a serious risk of fatal injuries. Upon being asked by victim’s counsel Alexander Hoffmann about the apartment of Hoffmann’s client, Dr. Mölle stated that the front-facing rooms of that apartment were also within that zone. This shows once more what Hoffmann had already stated yesterday: the motion by the Zschäpe defense to exclude his client from the trial is without any legal merit, it seems to be a mere propaganda device. The large number of private accessory prosecutors simply results from the extreme danger emanating from the bomb, which was designed to kill and maim as many Keupstraße residents as possible.