5 April 2016

Motion by the Wohlleben defense to suspend the trial: much ado about very very little. And: court asks Zschäpe additional questions, this time concerning Holger Gerlach.

Those who had hoped that the court would conduct the trial with a bit more vigor after the Easter break were due for a disappointment: The court again interrupted the trial shortly after 1 pm, without having heard any witnesses, and also canceled the trial day tomorrow.

This was due to a motion by the Wohlleben defense, brought before the Easter break, for suspension of the trial: During the search of Wohlleben’s apartment in 2011, police had found and photographed a T-shirt clearly showing his National Socialist ideology – under the heading of “Railway Romanticism”, it shows train tracks leading to the concentration camp Auschwitz.
The prosecution had only entered a printout of this photo into the case file a few weeks ago. The defense now moved that the trial against Wohlleben be suspended, i.e. interrupted and started anew later on, arguing that the case file was incomplete. The court at first denied the motion, but after a motion to reconsider it decided to provide printouts to the defense right away and interrupt the trial for one week.
It is no surprise that the motion for suspension did not succeed – after all, the picture file was always to be found on a USB drive contained in the file kept with the court, which the defense must have found out if they read the case files. Had they brought a motion – which they did not –, they would simply have been provided copies. What’s more, these are photos of the search in Wohllebens’s apartment, meaning that he is sure to know what relevant materials were found.
It is likely that the motion was, on the one hand, meant to distract from the content of the T-shirt and, on the other hand, brought in the hopes that the court might commit appealable legal errors. The court’s decision to cancel the trial day tomorrow may have been owed to its caution in trying not to commit such errors – but it was certainly not necessary, all the more since the witness who is to testify on the T-Shirt will only be heard at a still-unspecified later date.
The prosecution’s statement on the motion was interesting – to explain why they had not entered the printout of the photo into the case file earlier, they stated that at first, Wohlleben’s ideology had not been considered relevant for the indictment and that it had only become so after Wohlleben’s statement in court. Now it is true that the T-Shirt clearly disproves

Wohlleben’s attempts to present himself as a “national pacifist” opposed to racism and violence. But more importantly, the earlier decision to simply ignore such unambiguous evidence shows once more how the federal prosecution is trying to keep the political background of the NSU’s crimes, as well as the ideological and practical connections of the NSU with the broader Nazi scene, out of the trial entirely.

At the end of the trial day, the presiding judge asked Beate Zschäpe several additional questions and also announced that he would ask more at a later date. The questions today focused on Holger Gerlach, particularly on meetings with him and on what he knew of the crimes.