12 December 2017

Counsel for the Taşköprü family: two strong statements and a ludicrous defense pleading

The first two closing statements today were held by Andreas Thiel and Gül Pinar on behalf of family members of Süleyman Taşköprü, who had been killed by the NSU in Hamburg in 2001.

Andreas Thiel’s moving statement showed the immeasurable suffering caused to the family by the murder of their brother, son and father – Süleyman Taşköprü’s daughter was two years old at the time of his death. Thiel quoted Taşköprü’s father, who had found his dying son in the shop and blamed himself for having left shortly before to buy some olives: “I put his head on my lap, touched his face. He tried to say something, but he couldn’t. I tried to render first aid, but I couldn’t. […] If I had known that the murderers were there, I would have gone back, no matter what would have happened to me.”

Thiel referred to a photo of the dying man which the murderers Mundlos and Böhnhardt had taken shortly after the execution and which had been included in the NSU video, which, according to the evidence heard in court, accused Zschäpe had helped compile and which she had spread after the death of Mundlos and Böhnhardt on 4 November 2011.

In a few moving words, Andreas Thiel painted a picture of Süleyman Taşköprü’s life, including his very close relationship to his daughter, who could be seen together with her father in all family photos. “And this is the man whom Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos killed in a cowardly attack to further their idea of a Germany without foreigners.”

Andreas Thiel criticized failures in the police investigation, including the fact that witness descriptions of the killers as “two German men” had not been followed up on. However, in his view these failings would better have been considered in a parliamentary inquiry commission.

Gül Pinar further argued for the necessity of such a commission being set up by the Hamburg state parliament. Inter alia, she explained why she, like [link]Peer Stolle[/link], was convinced that the terrorist organization NSU had been founded earlier than stated in the indictment, referring to the crimes involving explosives in the mid-1990s, in which Ralf Wohlleben had also been involved.

Above all, Pinar referred to a number of connections between members of the “Thuringia Home Guard” and thus the NSU members on the one hand and high-ranking Nazis from Hamburg on the other – the latter included the “German Law Office” of attorney Gisa Pahl and now-deceased attorney and Nazi multi-functionary Jürgen Rieger, as well as Christian Worch, one of the leaders of the [link] GdNF [/link]. These questions, Pinar continued, could not be dealt with in a criminal trial and should be taken up by an inquiry commission. The Left Party in the Hamburg state parliament had called for such a commission before, but such calls had not been heeded by the other parties – for further details see the [link] report by NSU watch [/link] (in German).

Gül Pinar finished her closing statement by reminding the court of the importance its judgment would have on further debates concerning the NSU as well as on attempts to further clear up the facts. The court should leave room for further developments, which could be done, e.g., by including the words “at least”: if the court found that the NSU was composed “at least of Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt”, this would leave open the possibility of further fact-finding and mean a lot to victims.

These two statements were followed by a confused statement of Taşköprü counsel Wierig, who tried to present herself as a thoughtful liberal, but who in fact presented a mélange of reactionary thought snippets. We do not want to give her statements too much room, but a few points are in order: Wierig began by presenting Zschäpe as the “mastermind” of the NSU, who had given orders to Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt – she accordingly presented Mundlos and Böhnhardt as mentally ill psychopaths whom Zschäpe had provided with a political veneer for their actions. Wierig believed Wohlleben’s self-presentation as a national pacifist, claimed that there were severe doubts as to his guilt since Carsten Schultze’s identification of the murder weapon was not to be trusted – thus pretending not to have noticed that Wohlleben himself had admitted to having personally handled the pistol and the silencer. She claimed that the responsibility for fears of the migrant community lay above all with dedicated victims’ counsel and critical journalists who had drawn attention to the series of NSU murders, to their ideology and to the racist police investigations. After all, she claimed, it was quite understandable why the police had not warned the migrant communities as it was clear what would have followed if they had: “I am certain that parts of Hamburg would have burned, I think it is likely that there would have been riots, street battles and even that people would have died.” That, then, is the world view of “liberal” counsel Wierig: the Nazis are mentally ill and/or victims of the judiciary and the only truly evil one Beate, the responsibility for the consequences lies with left-wing lawyers and critical journalists, and migrant communities are powder-kegs to be kept under control lest they explode. Unsurprisingly, this reactionary mish-mash led to unbelieving faces not only of the other Taşköprü counsel and other victims’ counsel, but also of journalists outside the courtroom.

After the lunch break, the court could only hear one more short statement as Eminger’s counsel Hedrich was not present and counsel Kaiser was suffering from a severe cold. Tobias Westkamp, who represents one of the Keupstraße victims, thus wrapped up the trial day; his client, Sandro D., was also present in the courtroom. Westkamp’s statement was a welcome change from Wierig’s confused statement. He detailed the consequences of the bombing attack on his client, who had been severely injured by the explosion and by several nails which penetrated his body, and who will suffer from the physical and psychological consequences for the rest of his life.

Westkamp detailed how hard it was for Sandro D. that, when he woke up in the intensive care unit, he was not given any information as to whether his friend Melih K., who had been standing next to him when the bomb went off, was still alive. More generally, he considered how it hard must have been for the victims to be treated as suspects by the police. “It is hard to imagine what that does to a victim, to be treated not as such, but as responsible for one’s own suffering.”

Tobias Westkamp concluded his statement by addressing his client with a thought that contains some hope for the future:

“Mr. D, Cologne is your hometown, it is where you were born and where you grew up, you have never left Cologne even after the attack. Therefore, you know that the NSU’s goal – the destruction of a free and open society – has totally failed, not only, but also in Cologne, not only, but also in Cologne-Mülheim, not only, but also in the Keupstraße. I hope that this failure can provide you with some comfort.”

Tomorrow the court will hear further closing statements by victims’ counsel, inter alia on the Keupstraße attack (including the second part of Alexander Hoffmann’s statement) and on the murder of Michèle Kiesewetter and the attempted murder of her colleague.