8 October 2015

Much ado about nothing – Wohlleben defense tries to set Zschäpe’s counsel against each other.

After accused Beate Zschäpe had sabotaged the motion brought yesterday by her assigned counsel Heer, Stahl and Sturm by simply stating that she had not known of that motion beforehand, today the Wohlleben defense made another attempt. They stated that Wohlleben joined the motion by the Zschäpe defense in order to check, based on the official statements by the judges, whether to challenge them for bias. In addition – this is in fact the main point of today’s motion – they moved that the hearing be suspended – i.e., stopped now and started anew at a later point in time. Until then, they further moved, the court was to ensure that Zschäpe was adequately defended, Wohlleben was to be released from pre-trial detention.

At the heart of this motion is the claim that Zschäpe has not been adequately represented at least since 20 July 2015, when her motion to rescind the assignment of Stahl, Sturm and Heer as counsel had been rejected. Since Zschäpe refused to speak to Heer, Stahl and Sturm, they were unable to adequately represent her. Her new counsel Grasel had not been given their notes of earlier trial dates, had been unable to work through the file in the short time available to him and thus was also unable adequately to represent her. Zschäpe’s inadequate defense also influenced Wohlleben as it was not impossible that a more effective defense for Zschäpe would also influence Wohlleben’s case.

Of course, this argument must already fail since the situation within the Zschäpe defense is simply based on the destructive behavior by Zschäpe herself who refuses to communicate with Sturm, Stahl and Heer and has apparently instructed Grasel to do likewise. And even leaving that aside, it is more than clear that criminal procedure does not know of a right to a particularly qualified representation of a co-defendant. For the Wohlleben defense to move that the trial be suspended in order for a differently constituted defense of a co-defendant potentially improving the position of their own client is a rather brazen move.

A move, of course, which is only possible since Zschäpe’s counsel – Sturm, Stahl and Heer on the one hand, Grasel on the other – continue to accused each other in open court of not cooperating. Zschäpe uses this situation to pour oil on the fire: yesterday, she had brushed aside the motion by her own defense counsel, today she had Grasel announce that she joined the motion by Wohlleben’s defense.

As to the second grounds brought forward by the Wohlleben defense, the possible challenge against the judges for bias, this too is obviously without any merit: Even if the court, in allowing “Meral Keskin” to join the proceedings without sufficiently scrutinizing the motion by attorney Willms, this is simply a judicial error, but nothing to call into question their impartiality towards the accused.

Thus both the motion by the Zschäpe defense yesterday and the motion today are nothing more than desperate attempts by the defense, in light of clear and convincing evidence for the guilt of their clients, to lead the court to commit procedural mistakes in order to prepare for appeal.

What is clear, contrary to some spontaneous reactions in the press rows of the public gallery: Beate Zschäpe is being adequately represented, the trial will not “combust”. It is to be hoped that the court will quickly get back into the taking of evidence on Tuesday. Next week, the court will mostly deal with maps etc. found in the NSU apartment in Zwickau showing the detailed planning of their murders and bombing attacks as well as their attempts to scout out further potential murder victims.