20 December 2017

Closing statements on the murders in Rostock and Nuremberg

The first closing statement of the day could only start after an hours’ delay. Before that, the Wohlleben defense objected to the presiding judge’s reaction to earlier statements. They claimed that victims’ counsel Schön and Reinecke had both made statements on the penalties to be assessed to the accused and made motions in that regard, and that this was inadmissible and should have been stopped by the presiding judge. The prosecution asked for a four hour delay in order to comment on that objection in detail, a request which led to an embarrassing outburst from Zschäpe defense counsel Heer, who accused the presiding judge of strikingly partisan behavior favoring the prosecution as the defense was never given that much time – it should be noted that he held forth in this manner before the court had even decided on the requested delay. In fact, the delay did not occur as counsel Langer had announced that he would not make a statement on penalties in his closing statements. 

Accordingly, the proseecution’s comments could be postponed to tomorrow and Hardy Langer could begin his closing statement. He represents family members of Mehmet Turgut, who was killed by the NSU in Rostock.

Langer began by describing the crime scene in Rostock, which was so far off the beaten track that it was unconceivable for persons without first hand knowledge to have chosen this scene:

“Here we obviously have a different connection, personal knowledge of the crime scene by at least of the three persons who formed the NSU trio. One or more of these three had personally seen the kebap shop earlier and knew the surroundings personally.”

Langer added that Uwe Böhnhardt had relatives in the very same quarter of the city of Rostock. In addition, a person whose address had been noted in Böhnhardt’s so-called garage list had lived in the immediate vicinity of the crime scene from 1994 to the late 1990s.

The police, however, had never really considered these hints. Neither had they considered the fact that the owner of the kebap shop where Mehmet Turgut was killed had been attacked once and that the shop had burned down under unclear circumstances.

“The police should have considered that the shop had burned down on 17 September 1998 and that one member of the fire department suspected arson. Roughly three months before that, on 13 June 1998, directly in front of the shop there was a bodily attack on the owner by four known individuals, which led to a police investigation. This attack could well have been based on xenophobic motives.”

Based on the reports of crime scene investigators, Langer concludes that Turgut, in contrast to other victims, had been forced to lie down and that the shots had been fired at him afterwards. Nonetheless, one of the shots had missed him. Langer thus holds that it is possible that Zschäpe had taken part in the murder:

“Another possibility is that a third person, shorter and more petite than the other two, was present and that the other two forced Mehmet Turgut to lie down so that this third person, visibly unpracticed in dealing with the item in the plastig bag, could fire the shorts. The first shot missed the victim, the second hit him in the nape of the neck. Quickly one of the first two took the plastic bag from the third person, which led to a bullet casing to fall out and land under the fridge. Then he fired two well-practiced shots at Mehmet Turgut, which hit his head and neck.”

„This is another issue concerning which Beate Zschäpe could certainly give more details, but she was not willing to say more on the issue either on her own or in answer to questions asked. Maybe she has good reason to remain silent!“

Langer also dealt with the responsibility of accused Carsten Schultze, Holger Gerlach and André Eminger. Above all, he showed why the argument by the prosecution according to which Schultze and Wohlleben are responsible for the murder of Mehmet Turgut as aiders and abettors, while Holger Gerlach was only to be convicted of supporting a terrorist organization, is not convincing:

“Wohlleben/Schultze had procured the weapon in the spring of 2000, quite some time before the first murder and at a time when Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe had no firm plans to commit the crimes, when there is not even any evidence showing that Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe had already decided on the group they wished to target. By contrast, in January/February 2004, when Holger Gerlach procured the driver’s licence, all this was very clear – the murder series directed against people of Turkish origin had already led to four murders and was to be continued now. And Gerlach knew that the licence would be used – in the words of prosecutor Weingarten, to procure ‘vehicles used to travel to and from some activities on behalf of the organization’ Of course Gerlach thought it possible, I think that it is not very far-fetched, that such ‘activities on behalf of the organization’ could be acts of murder – after all, the indictment also states that Gerlach knew that the terrorist organization was going to ‘continue this fight in the underground with deadly consequences for its victims’.”

In Langer’s eyes, therefore, Gerlach was also to be convicted of aiding and abetting murder.

The final closing statement of the day was presented by counsel Aziz Sariyar, who represents the siblings and mother of Ismail Yaşar, who was murdered by the NSU in Nuremberg. He began by detailing the live of the murder victim and the murder itself.

He then referred to the statements of other victims’ counsel concerning the investigations directed against the families and to the consequences of these investigations, as well as on the network of the NSU, and added: like others, his clients, living in Turkey, too were visited by the police, they too talked to the police about the possibility of a xenophobic motive, they too were instead only asked about possible connections of the victim to criminal activities or the PKK. Such investigations concerning the families, Sariyar added, are not always reason for cricitism, but they are to be criticized where they are conducted in a one-sided and prejudiced was. Views might differ on whether the question of racist prejudice in the police was a question to be considered in the trial. But there was unity in holding that mistakes had been made for many years and that it is unacceptable for the topic to be swept under the rug by the courts and law enforcement agencies.

After some statements on the fact that the Yaşar family too holds that the NSU was part of a larger network, counsel Sariyar read out a short statement to the court from his clients:

“[…] We are happy that the perpetrators and supporters of these inhuman crimes have been found out and placed before the court. We had hoped to find out why our Ismail was selected and had to die, but such hopes have not been fulfilled. The facts will not be cleared up. Now the only important thing is that the perpetrators receive their sentences. It is important that the name of our son and brother is cleared. We have never doubted him, even when the officers tried to tell us that our Ismail was involved in sinister dealings. […]”