10 November 2015 – afternoon session

Challenges by the Wohlleben defense for alleged bias.

After a long interruption of the trial, the Wohlleben defense brought ist challenges for alleged bias against all judges. Interestingly, this challenge again was not simply based on the court’s failing to inform the parties about the announcement that Zschäpe would make a statement. Instead, attorneys Schneiders, Nahrath and Klemke first repeated at great length their earlier motions concerning the allegedly insufficient defense of Zschäpe and the court decisions rejecting those motions (see the reports of 8 October 2015, 13 October 2015 and 14 October 2015). At the time of those decisions, the court had already known that Zschäpe would make statement and had not told Heer, Stahl and Sturm, but the court had not stated this fact in its decisions. Thus the court had, in the eyes of the Wohlleben defense, “accepted” that procedural activities by Heer, Stahl and Sturm would be in opposition to the defense strategy of Grasel, this in order to receive Zschäpe’s statement “no matter what the cost”.

It is hardly surprising that the Wohlleben defense bring another challenge for alleged bias – after all, Wohlleben has been backed into a corner after all evidence heard has confirmed the indictment and he now has to use all opportunities to try to throw a spanner in the works. What is surprising, however, is that the defense again bases its challenge solely on claimed deficits in the defense of Zschäpe. It seems as if the Wohlleben defense is afraid of the contents of Zschäpe’s statement – maybe they have reason to believe she could provide further details incriminating Wohlleben.

Of course, when it comes to their merits, the claims of the Wohlleben defense are just as lacking as those made by the Zschäpe defense this morning: if the Zschäpe defense is working at cross purposes and its members are refusing to talk to each other, it is not the task of the court to intervene – quite the contrary, any intervention by the court would mean a grave interference into the specific defense relationship. The claims concerning the court’s activities thus – once more – totally miss the point. In addition, it is – once more – extremely hard to see how Wohlleben could claim to be affected by the quarrels within the Zschäpe defense, but this is something that one has almost gotten used to when it comes to the Wohlleben defense.
One interesting tidbit: Schneiders, Klemke and Nahrath detailed that Grasel had already told them on 24 September 2015 that Zschäpe wished to make a statement, but had asked them to keep quiet about this, even vis-à-vis Wohlleben himself. They claim to have honored this wish. If that is true – and Wohlleben’s counsel sworn an oath in their capacity as counsel that it was – this would show them giving more deference to the wishes of Zschäpe defense counsel Grasel than to the interests of their own client.