7 February 2018

Final statements of victims and their counsel likely to be held tomorrow.

As expected, the challenge for alleged bias brought by the Wohlleben defense last week was rejected as unfounded, so the trial could continue today. The court issued its decision rejecting the objections of 20 December 2017 with which the defense had tried to get the presiding judge to influence the content of victims’ counsel’s closing statements. The defense asked for and was granted an hour-long break to discuss the decision, after which it decided not to challenge it. Accordingly, the closing statements of victims and their counsel could continue.

Counsel Reiger read out the closing statement of counsel Mohammed, who represents a victim of the nail bomb attack in the Keupstraße in Cologne. He referred to the personal history of his client, a Christian from Syria facing persecution who had fled to Germany and had felt safe for the first time in Cologne – until the events of 9 June 2004, until 4 November 2011. Reiger referred to the oft-repeated statement in the court’s decisions that the object of the trial was only to decide on guilt of the five accused, and he objected to that decision: the trial was about much more, inter alia about the police view of migrants and about the treatment of migrants by state organs, about the role of the domestic secret service. Accordingly, the court, but also the attorneys in the trial, had tried, each in their own way, to clear up the facts. He pointedly did not include the representatives of the federal prosecution in his list.

Counsel Erdal, who represents another victim of the Keupstraße attack, held the shortest closing statement: he simply joined the statement made by the federal prosecution.

The final statement for today was held by counsel Barbara Kaniuka from Munich, who represents the daughter of NSU murder victim Habil Kılıç. She focused on the life of the Kılıç family and on the suffering caused by the murder, but also by the racist police investigation, media reports etc.

“I am aware that this may sound like something that you have heard before. At a first glance, this may be true. But in reality, none of the following is a repetition of earlier statements – because we are speaking of the lives and fates of individual human beings. Every victim of the NSU’s murders and bombing attacks has their own story to tell.”

Accordingly, she then told the story of the Kılıç family, beginning with their life up to August 2001, when Habil Kılıç was killed in the family’s corner shop, which they had opened about a year before. She then turned to the family members’ suffering causes by the killing of their beloved father and husband, but also by the racist police investigations directed against the family and accompanying press reports. Barbara Kaniuka referred in detail to the way this had impacted the life of her client:

“How does a twelve-year-old girl, who has just lost her father in a manner she cannot comprehend, cope when rumors are spread in her school that he had been a drug dealer or a member of the Mafia? The school principal would have preferred if the child had simply left the school, as she openly stated to her mother, claiming that she needed to protect the other pupils and think of their security. Protect them from what, from whom? Try to imagine being in the situation of this child and her mother: before the summer break, she had been a normal, totally harmless pupil, but within a few weeks she had been declared a security risk due to baseless rumors and speculations. If there was anybody who needed protection and support, it was her.”

Kaniuka, as others before her, criticized the police investigations, which had been defended in the courtroom by the chief investigator Wilfling. In this case, like in many others before, witnesses had described two suspicious bicyclists.

“And indeed, the first reaction by the police had not been far off the mark: A police report of 29 August 2001 references an ‘are search for suspicious bicyclists, warning police officers to remain alert and consider their own security.’ Suspicious bicyclists, warnings concerning these bicyclists – looking at this report today, it seems like one small bright spot, right before the two man quickly turned into unsuspicious witnesses, ‘potentially important witnesses’, as they are referred to in a report of 1 September 2001. And what was the police supposed to do after they had not come forward of their own?”

As to Zschäpe’s refusal to answer victims’ questions, Kaniuka interpreted this as her clinging to the last remaining bits of power she was able to wield:

„Böhnhardt, Mundlos and the accused Zschäpe have over the years wielded the ultimate power of deciding over the life or death of other people. They were able to follow in the media how they had successfully led astray law enforcement investigations, how insecurity spread as intended. How their victims were portrayed as perpetrators due to the investigations. All of this was the result of their activities, a feeling which they further savored when preparing the NSU video. Over a long time, there was so much power in an otherwise empty life, a life based on borrowed identities and paid for by others. And from one moment to the next, all of that power is gone – except for the pitiful remainder of knowing something which other don’t know, but would so dearly like to know, the ability to leave relatives of murder victims dangling, to refuse to alleviate their uncertainty.”

However, this attempt was unsuccessful as far as her client was concerned:

“You, Ms. Zschäpe, have caused my client great suffering by taking part in the murder of her father, suffering which has shaped her life. But I know Ms. Kılıç as a strong person, a person whose ease of mind does not depend on whether you choose to make a step in the direction of the victims […]. Despite the stones you have placed in her path when she was very young, despite all the adversities she has faced, she has made her way successfully and has found her place. She will not be driven out of this country, and neither will her mother. Both belong here, just as Mr. Kılıç belonged here.”

Tomorrow, the court expects to hear the closing statements of counsel Alkan and Heising, who also represent victims of the Keupstraße attack. The court will also hear the statement of counsel Narin for the family of NSU murder victim Theodoros Boulgarides – the family members have announced that they will also be present.

After that, the court will hear the defense closing statements. Accordingly, the presiding judge asked them about preferences as to the order of their statements. The defense teams of accused Zschäpe, Wohlleben and Eminger requested a break of three weeks (or one month – counsel Heer once more was not quite clear in his motion) after the end of the victim’s closing statements. In addition, Zschäpe’s defense counsel Borchert asked that the Zschäpe defense be allowed to make its statement after the other defense teams – he seems to think that this would be the “usual” order in such cases. Other defense teams objected, the presiding judge agreed that it was preferable for the Zschäpe defense to begin. A decision will likely be reached tomorrow or in the next few days.