29 April 2015

Surprising testimony concerning early crimes in Jena

Today marked the first time in a long while that a witness made a surprising statement. The witness was a former close friend of Beate Zschäpe’s who was also involved in the Skinhead fraction of the Nazi scene, but who fully left the scene sometime in the late 1990s.

The witness had much earlier testified in a 1997 trial, already discussed in this blog, against inter alia Uwe Böhnhardt for hanging a human-sized dummy with a star of David on its front from a highway bridge and for placing a mock bomb next to it. Böhnhardt was in the end acquitted since several “comrades”, including today’s witness, had provided him with an alibi.
Today the witness confirmed what was more than likely anyway, namely that that alibi was false. He then went on to report that he himself had been involved in the actual crime. Mundlos and Böhnhardt had asked him and told him they needed an alibi witness. As the witness was already then known as a “moralizer”, he was to tell both law enforcement and the scene itself that Böhnhardt and Mundlos had nothing to do with this. His statement today showed that it would otherwise have been only natural for the Uwes to be suspected, showing the extent of the political and ideological development already at the time of this crime in 1996. He also reported that involved in the actual crime itself were not only Mundlos, Böhnhardt and the witness himself, but also Beate Zschäpe and Ralf Wohlleben.

The witness further reported that after the Three had gone underground, Wohlleben had quite aggressively asked him for money to support them and had in that context reminded him of the common perpetration of this crime. He had been summoned to a meeting at the place of Böhnhardt’s parents. He first promised to give money, but later reneged since he disapproved of their crimes involving explosives and since he feared that they would finance their life underground with bank robberies or the like. Also, he had been certain they were already abroad: “I could not and cannot imagine that it is possible to live for more than a month or two in Germany without being caught, particularly if the police are looking for the person.” His surprise by the fact of their remaining undetected is a natural reaction, particularly given the number of informers surrounding the accused and their supporters in Chemnitz.

His testimony seemed very believable, especially as it was obvious that he had to overcome his own resistance: first because he had to confess his own involvement in the 1996 crime and his perjury in court, second because he obviously found it difficult, despite his rejection of her ideology and her crimes, to incriminate his childhood friend Zschäpe. Nonetheless, he made his statement of his own free will and thus contributed to the elucidation of the facts concerning the NSU and its crimes – and this in spite of fearing both legal and societal consequences for his statement. This is to be commended. Of course, at the same time this witness has only fulfilled his duty as a witness, namely to testify fully and truthfully – that his behavior in court seems almost exemplary once again throws into sharp relief the callous disregard most other witnesses have shown the proceedings and the extent to which court and prosecution have allowed them to do so.

His testimony, obviously, is also a strike against the Zschäpe and Wohlleben defenses, whose strategies so far relied inter alia on claiming that they had never been involved in the perpetration of concrete crimes. This claim is now – once more – challenged for both accused. Both defense teams seemed largely unprepared, shown by their telling the presiding judge that they would need a lengthy break before they could question the witness. The presiding judge instead interrupted the questioning today, the witness will come to court once more to finish his testimony.