19 May 2015

On the chain of custody of the murder weapon, on a „confessed” liar and on “misunderstandings” of the Zschäpe defense.

The first half of the trial day was full of interruptions based on attempts by the Zschäpe defense to keep expert witness psychiatrist Prof. Sass from fully observing their client. The result is that Saß now sits about two feet further away from Zschäpe. Incidentally, these proceedings showed that the defense has so far paid very little attention to the everyday needs of their client: when they remarked that, Zschäpe was not allowed, during interruptions, to use her laptop with the case file in the court’s holding cell, the presiding judge simply replied that she was of course allowed to do so, if this had been denied in the past that was the result of a misunderstanding. Apparently, for more than 200 trial days, the defense had simply never complained about this actual constraint on their client.

After lunch the court could finally question the first witness, a police officer from the Bernese Oberland. He had been summoned, based on a motion by the Wohlleben defense, to testify on an investigation against the proprietors of a gun shop which had sold the murder weapon Ceska. According to the indictment, the first buyer had given the Ceska to Swiss Hans-Ulrich Müller, Müller had brought it Thuringia and after several further holders, it had ended up with accused Wohlleben and Schultze. The chain of custody has been proven by several items of evidence, the court has recently held when reviewing the provisional detention of Wohlleben that there was still a “strong suspicion” against Wohlleben, a decision that was upheld by the Federal Court of Justice.

The motion for summons of today’s witness is a Hail Mary attempt by the Wohlleben defense to call into question this evidence. However, the witness did not even confirm what the defense wanted to hear from him, namely that the gun shop’s records were unreliable. Quite to the contrary, he stated that he had looked at the records several times over a period of more than a decade and had always found everything in order. He did not have any knowledge of “shady” deals which the defense had found in other files.

The next witness was – once more – Bernd Tödter, transported to Munich from the Kassel jail where he is once more detained on suspicion of violent crimes (on his earlier testimony, see the reports of 11 February 2015 and 23 April 2015). Tödter clearly announced his line at the beginning of his testimony: everything he had told the police back then was a lie, he had never seen any of the accused or Böhnhardt and Mundlos, he had simply parroted information found online in order to obtain lenient treatment in criminal proceedings against himself: “I thought I’d climb on the bandwagon and see what happens.”

The presiding judge could not quite follow this change of heart, particularly since Tödter had indeed had opportunities to come into contact with “the Three”, had several times visited his brother in Zwickau, had lines of connection within the Nazi scene. Victims’ counsel also asked several critical questions – inter alia, they established that Tödter had been in detention before his statement to the police and had not had any opportunity to go online to research the NSU as he claimed to have done. Tödter remained steadfast: everything he had said had been information found online or simply invented by him, or the police had put words in his mouth and he had simply confirmed what they wanted to hear.

Which of Tödter’s contradictory statements is true is hard to say. One thing is clear, however: it is inconceivable that the NSU was able to commit murders all over Germany without any local support. This is true above all for the 2006 murders in Kassel and Dortmund. Victims’ counsel have moved for summonses to additional witnesses regarding these issues; it is to be hoped that these witnesses will make clearer statements than Tödter.