15 November 2017

Victims’ counsel closing statements begin – and are immediately interrupted by meritless defense objections.

Most observers had thought it likely that the defense would continue with its stalling tactics today. At first, it seemed like such fears would come true as the Zschäpe defense counsel once more logged a motion for reconsideration concerning the information on legal characterizations provided by the court last week, claiming it to be insufficient. Many were surprised that, after this motion was denied, victims and their counsel could actually begin with their closing statements, the first of which was held by Edith Lunnebach, counsel for the victims of the Probsteigasse bombing.

The attack in the Probsteigasse in Cologne in 2001, perpetrated by means of a bomb hidden in a cookie tin which was left in the family’s grocery shop and which caused very severe injuries to one of the daughters, showed obvious signs of a racist motivation, which were however totally ignored by law enforcement.

Lunnebach focused on showing that a co-perpetrator who knew of the planned crime and had local knowledge of the area in Cologne must have been involved both in choosing the location for the attack and in leaving the bomb. Nonetheless, it was clear that this had been done in collaboration with the NSU and that the self-description by the NSU as perpetrators of this attack was true.

The next closing statement was held by victims’ counsel Dr. Mehmet Daimagüler, who represents family members of murder victims Ismail Yaşar and Abdurrahim Özüdoğru. He began by detailing the expectations of his clients, which do not above all concern at a lengthy prison sentence, but which can be summarized in one word: “Why?”

Daimagüler then considered in detail all the problems of the investigations in the NSU cases: the racist police investigations which were directed against the victims’ families; the early and unjustified decision by the federal prosecution to base its case on the claim that the NSU was an isolated cell of only three persons with only a few supporters; the many secret service informers in the close vicinity of the NSU.

In order to provide a context for his statements concerning the handling of the investigation by the federal prosecution, which is based on “reason of state” considerations, he referred to other cases of Nazi attacks in which law enforcement had similarly prevented an elucidation of the true facts of the case, including the attack on the Octoberfest in Munich in 1998, the arson attack on a refugee home in Lübeck in 1996 and the mass murder at the Olympia Shopping Center in Munich last year.

These statements were interrupted several times by Zschäpe defense counsel Heer and Stahl, who claimed that they exceeded the limits of what was allowable in a closing statement and who moved that he be denied the floor for such statements. Heer showed himself particularly incensed by the attacks on the prosecution agency and, in the final instance, “the German state as such.”

These objections led to a very emotional discussion. Several victims’ counsel referred to the clear jurisprudence which grants a lot of leeway to those making closing statements, and which above all clearly shows that such statements are not limited only to a discussion of the evidence stricto sensu, but may also deal with other matters as long as they have a connection to the matter at hand – a requirement which was clearly fulfilled here. They also referred to the fact that the families of murder victims had not really had a chance to give their views in court as many family members had not been heard as witnesses, the court apparently not having considered their testimony as valuable for its trial. In addition, the defense shenanigans of the last weeks had made it almost impossible for victims to participate in the closing statements as they are simply unable to plan their lives around being able to come to court for months and months.

The defense attempts to now limit the content of their counsel’s closing arguments and to continuously interrupt them by way of totally meritless objections follow the same logic, a logic aimed at once more limiting the role of victims to that of objects of the proceedings who can follow from afar.

The federal prosecution stated very clearly that nothing of what Daimagüler had said gave rise to any objections at all. The defense forced a decision of the court, which clearly overruled its objections.

The trial day nonetheless ended with another objection, this one brought by defense counsel Stahl. The closing statement will be continued tomorrow.