12 September 2017

Final day of the prosecution’s closing statement: lengthy prison sentence for Eminger. And: betrayal pays off.

This morning, the presiding judge gave notice to accused Eminger that the two counts of aiding and abetting robbery contained in the indictment could also be considered as aiding and abetting armed robbery in the judgment.

Prosecutor Dr. Diemer than concluded the closing statement with the concrete motions for sentences. The details will be available in the minutes which we will publish (in the German language) in a few days. Here, we will limit ourselves to the sentences the prosecution is asking for:

For accused Beate Zschäpe: life imprisonment with a finding of “particular seriousness of guilt” (which increases the time until the first motion for parole may be granted) followed by detention for the purpose of incapacitation. For the various crimes Zschäpe is charged with (commission of the murders, bombing attacks and robberies as co-perpetrator and setting fire to the house in the Frühlingsstraße), the prosecution is asking for fourteen life sentences and 14 determinate prison sentences, which lead to an aggregate sentence of life imprisonment.

For accused Ralf Wohlleben: twelve years’ imprisonment for aiding and abetting nine counts of murder.

For accused Carsten Schultze: three years’ imprisonment as a youthful offender for aiding and abetting nine counts of murder.

For accused Holger Gerlach: Five years’ imprisonment for three counts of supporting a terrorist organization.

For accused André Eminger: twelve years’ imprisonment for aiding and abetting attempted murder and bringing about an explosion, two counts of aiding and abetting armed robbery, and two counts of supporting a terrorist organization.

Diemer than brought another motion which led to hectic discussions between Eminger and his counsel: he moved for a detention order against Eminger as the sentence of twelve years as called for by the prosecution led to a danger of absconding. The court ordered that Eminger be put in short-time detention, it will decide on the detention order tomorrow and will issue that order, if any, tomorrow at 3 pm. There will be no trial tomorrow, the trial will continue on Thursday.

Of course, these motions concerning Eminger, which may be considered quite harsh at first sight, were the defining issues of this trial day. However, after the prosecution statement of last trial week, where they argued that his involvement in the bombing attack in the Probsteigasse in Cologne constituted aiding and abetting attempted murder, these motions were not all that surprising.

And indeed, this is precisely the charge contained in the indictment. The only change in the charges is the “upgrading” of the two counts of aiding and abetting robbery into aiding and abetting armed robbery. However, many parties had not thought it likely that the prosecution would hold on to the charge concerning the Probsteigasse bomb. After all, during four years of trial, the prosecution had not done anything to effect a thorough investigation of Eminger’s role. It was therefore a surprise to many when prosecutor Weingarten, in his statement, referred extensively to the shared ideology of “leaderless resistance”, admiration of American armed Nazi group “The Order” and Eminger’s reading of the “Turner Diaries”, which can be read as a blueprint for the NSU’s crimes, in order to show that, when Eminger rented the vehicle used by Böhnhardt and Mundlos in the bombing attack in 2000, he knew that it was likely they would commit such an attack. To avoid any misunderstandings: we are of the opinion that Eminger must very likely be considered a fourth member of the NSU and therefore had full knowledge of all past and planned crimes of the group. However, the prosecution has always held on to its assumption that the NSU was an isolated group of three people and has thus itself caused the problems in proving the charges against him.

Similar problems may have been responsible for the relatively low sentence requested for Ralf Wohlleben. Wohlleben, who is charged with aiding and abetting nine counts of murder, is to receive the same sentence as Eminger. This can only be justified by pretending that Wohlleben had only supported the NSU once, namely by procuring the Ceska pistol. This ignores that Wohlleben was a full member of the “Comradeship Jena” just as Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe, that he knew of the bomb factory in the garage, that he was part of the team deciding that Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe were to go underground, had actually considered joining them as he feared that he would be arrested as well. In other words, Wohlleben did not only procure the bomb, but was the central person in the network of supporters, as shown in the trial. Even after their move to Zwickau, he visited the core trio and had political discussions. As to ideology, the “Celebration of Peoples” concerts organized by Wohlleben provided a stage for international “Blood and Honour” bands to present their ideology of leaderless resistance. All this would make it seem pertinent to give Wohlleben a higher sentence than Eminger, a sentence rather close that is close to the maximum of fifteen years that can be given for aiding and abetting murder.

The prosecution tries to present itself as tough defenders of the rule of law – even daring to claim that that rule of law had to be defended against attacks from “the right and the left”, a statement which can only be described as a slap in the face of all NSU victims. In reality, the prosecution is asking for a rather low sentence for Wohlleben in order to avoid having to treat Wohlleben as another member of the NSU.

The low sentences for Carsten Schultze, who is to be treated as a youthful offender and sentenced to three years, and for Holger Gerlach, whom the prosecution wants to see sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, are a clear signal to persons charged with membership in terrorist organizations: betrayal pays off. Of course, admissions of guilt, statements of remorse and aid in investigating other accused must be considered in sentencing. However, the prosecution has also stated in case of accused Gerlach that he has not revealed all that he knows and that his statement does not actually show him remorseful for his part in the NSU’s crimes.

A state under the rule of law must decide very carefully to what extent a “crown witness” is to be compensated by a reduced sentence. Holger Gerlach was a full member of the “Comradeship Jena”, has not only committed crimes together with the other members, but has also had discussions about “armed struggle” with them. He has transported a gun to Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe and has allowed the NSU to use his identity for more than a decade. Without his identity papers, the NSU core trio would have had to find another way to organize not only their daily lives, but also their crimes – after all, nearly all vehicles used in the commission of the murders, bombing attacks and robberies were rented by Uwe Böhnhardt using Gerlach’s driver’s license. Gerlach has met with Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe regularly throughout that time, has spent vacations with them, was a committed National Socialist until the end. If the court sentences him to such a low sentence in return for his help in convicting Beate Zschäpe and Ralf Wohlleben, knowing full well that he has not revealed the full extent of his knowledge, would send a rather dangerous signal.