17 March 2016

Zschäpe’s statement falling further apart, Wohlleben defense engaged in obstruction, and the court opting for Easter vacation

Today the court first heard two additional witnesses concerning the NSU’s robberies. One of them used the opportunity to make a short statement in court: he would have wished for an official apology also to the surviving victims of the NSU for the many shortcomings in the investigation – as victim of a bank robbery, he had not heard anything in that regard. Zschäpe defense attorneys Heer and Stahl bristled at this statement and asked the presiding judge to interrupt.

The court next heard a police officer whose statement further calls into questions Zschäpe’s statements. The young federal criminal police detective, who had already testified in court several times, reported on two technical issues: on the one hand, on the question whether Zschäpe could, as she had claimed, have found out via radio that Böhnhardt and Mundlos had died. The witness had checked with radio stations and had found out that this was not totally impossible, but rather unlikely – Zschäpe had been listening to an internet live stream of a radio station, which only reported on the dead bodies in the mobile home in Eisenach after she had already set the house on fire. Whether other radio stations had reported on the dead bodies earlier could not be fully established – but even if they had, Zschäpe could only have heard such news if she had listened to the stream and an analog radio station at the same time. Accordingly, this part of her statement also seems to be untrue.

The witness had also considered video recordings, found in the Frühlingsstraße apartment, of TV news on the bombing attack in the Keupstraße in Cologne. These recordings had been made manually starting two hours after the attack, i.e. at a time when Mundlos and Böhnhardt could not have made it back from Cologne to Zwickau. If these recordings were made in Zwickau, they can only have been made by Zschäpe – disproving her claim that she had only heard about the attack when the two men came back from Cologne.

Statements by Zschäpe defense counsel to the media show how desperate the defense attempts at an explanation have become: when media had reported on the videos a few days ago, Grasel had told the German daily taz that these recordings could have been made by André Eminger – yesterday, less than a week later, co-defense attorney Borchert read out Zschäpe’s claim that Eminger had not had any knowledge of the murders and bombing attacks.

The investigations presented today – together with the many pieces of evidence already presented – will thus ensure that Zschäpe is convicted – the totality of the evidence is simply too overwhelming, her statements simply too unbelievable and self-contradictory for the trial to end any other way.

However, the question also arises why some of the themes discussed in the last weeks have not been dealt with earlier – the programs of various radio stations, to give only one example, could have been reconstructed much more easily in early 2012 than now, more than four years later. Similarly, the videos on the Cologne attack had also been known to the authorities since late 2011.

Another police officer was to report on a T-shirt found during the search of Wohlleben’s apartment, which again shows that his claims to be a moderate “national pacifist” are bogus and that he is in fact a hardcore neo-Nazi: police had found a T-shirt of a railway line leading to the Auschwitz concentration camp, under the heading of “railway romanticism”, and had made photos.

However, before the witness could start her testimony, the Wohlleben defense interrupted, protesting against her being heard and moving that the trial against Wohlleben be split from the Munich trial and started anew, all based on the fact that this photo had not been part of the case file before. Indeed, as victims’ counsel have already stated several times, the federal prosecutor’s office is to be criticized for keeping relevant information out of the case file and/or “parking” it in the files of other NSU-related cases. However, this does not mean that the defense motion will be successful, considering that it only concerns one photograph, whose existence moreover was noted in the case file from the beginning. The prosecution stated that they had only “activated” the photo in reaction to the picture that Wohlleben had tried to paint of himself in court. The court, apparently not in a mood to craft a lengthy decision on the motion today, instead concluded the trial day and thus began the Easter break.

Over the last few weeks before the break, the court has remained true to its tendency to only hold half-day trial days on average – therefore it was no surprise when it formally announced further dates for the continuation of the trial up to January 2017.