Moving closing statements and somewhat arduous attempts to plan the defense statements
It would have been nice if the last trial day before the Winter break had consisted only of the closing statements of counsel Serkan Alkan, of Yvonne Boulgarides and of counsel Yavuz Narin. After all, these statements were an impressive and often moving end to this part of the trial, in which the victims of the NSU were able to raise their voices either in person or via their counsel.
However, the end of the trial day was taken up by planning the defense closing statements, a process which proved somewhat arduous. To quickly recap the results: the court will decide on formal questions concerning the forfeiture of moneys gained by the robberies on 20 February 2018. After that there will be a long break, the statement of Zschäpe defense counsel Grasel and Borchert will begin on 13 March and will again be followed by a break of probably one week. After that, the court will hear the statements of Zschäpe’s assigned counsel Heer, Stahl and Sturm as well as the defense counsel of accused Eminger, Gerlach, Wohlleben and Schultze, in that order. With the exception of Heer, Stahl and Sturm, all defense teams announced that their respective statements were likely to only take one day each. It thus seems quite likely that the court will be able to pronounce its verdict in mid to late April.
But now to the final closing statements by victims and their counsel: the first of these was held by counsel Serkan Alkan, who represents a victim of the nail bomb attack in the Keupstraße. He started by referencing earlier closing statements by victims and their counsel and announcing that he would only add a few points to those. He, too, dealt with the racist police investigations and their consequences for the victims. His client, in his witness statement in court, had related
„how scared the people in the Keupstraße had been, not mainly because of the nail bomb attack, but because of the investigations. It was easy to become victim of these investigations, a fact which was very depressing for my client and surely for others as well, and which led to people in the Keupstraße steering clear of talking about the nail bomb attack – which would, however, surely have been important in trying to work through its consequences.”
Alkan referred to the „trial-related general amnesia” of witness from the Nazi scene and to the far-fetched statement by accused Zschäpe – and the attempts by these persons to hide their own ideology:
“Suddenly they did not have anything against foreigners or at least did not feel that this issue was dominant. They were instead interested in saving the environment and maybe went as far as the slogan ‘Bratwurst not kebabs.’. It was sometimes unbearable to have to listen to the obvious lies of the witnesses in this trial.
Of course the accused Zschäpe, Eminger and also Wohlleben were concerned with not wanting to have live here the foreigner who lives in Germany in the third or fourth generation, who is connected with the country of origin of his parents or grandparents only by spending vacations there. The archetype of this type of foreigner, in their eyes, was the Turk, whom they felt compelled to combat.”
Alkan also turned to the topic of institutional racism:
„Was institutional racism, which certainly existed and still exists, responsible for the murders and the bombing attacks? Certainly not. But in our view, it has contributed to the fact that these crimes were not cleared up earlier and that the victims of the NSU were treated as perpetrators and criminals for over a decade.
For me as a German with a migrant background, institutional racism is a label for something which one has often felt, but been unable to put into words. I am sure that there is not one of my colleagues with a migrant background who has never experienced such a situation which a ‘bio-German’ would never experience in this form. I speak of patterns which have become locked in, which drive actions without the actors even being aware that they have lost all measure of objectivity.”
Alkan was followed by the impressive and moving closing statement of Yvonne Boulgarides, widow of Theodoros Boulgarides, who was murdered by the NSU in Munich on 16 June 2005. She referred to the many questions the trial had not been able to clear up:
“Why did so many witnesses involved in the investigations fall prey to an epidemy of amnesia? Why were informers and officers of state agencies not proactively given the go-ahead to testify fully? Why have these people, who obviously failed massively in fulfilling their duties, been protected, why are they still being protected? Why was this protection not instead given to the victims and their families? How many victims would have been spared had the state organs fulfilled their duties in a conscientious and honorable manner? Why have thousands of pages of case files been destroyed even while investigations were ongoing? Why have several informers and NSU supporters still not been questioned in an appropriate manner? Where are all of those who with their actions negligently or knowingly enabled these crimes? Why do they not have to fear any consequences? Why are they instead being actively protected against criminal prosecutions, as can be seen in the case of Lothar Lingen, wo knowingly destroyed case files? […] All the sometimes absurd attempts of elucidation and explanation have only left us with more questions, mistrust and uncertainty.”
For her, the trial was comparable to “a superficial house-cleaning. In order to do a thorough job, one would have had to lift up the rugs under which so much has been swept.” The court had made an effort, but had not achieved much.
“The fact that there will still be dirt under these rugs after the end of the trial is due to the tradition of a paranoid, inhuman ideology, an ideology which has brought only death and suffering to this country.”
Ms. Boulgarides praised counsel Yavuz Narin for his untiring efforts at finding the true facts – even prior to the self-uncovering of the NSU in November 2011, Narin had told her about the obvious connections between the then so-called “kebab killings” and the nail bomb attack in the Keupstraße and had raised the hypothesis of a Combat 18-cell having perpetrated these crimes. And she commemorated our friend and colleague Angelika Lex, who until her death in 2015 had also represented the family.
The Boulgarides family had met personally with accused Carsten Schultze:
“This meeting was one of the most difficult, but also one of the most emotional moments in our lives. In that conversation, we have found Mr. Schultze to be a person who deeply regrets his collaboration, whose own conscience has already severely punished him. Someone who possesses a knowledge of wrongdoing and who is capable of remorse – qualities which we have not been able to find in any of the other accused. We wish for a sentence which allows him to steer his life into a positive direction.”
Yvonne Boulgarides closed with a remembrance of her husband and a promise for the future:
„I know that my husband would very much have liked to see his daughter grow, how happy he would have been to lead his girls to the altar on their wedding day, how proud he would have been when his granddaughter was born. I also know how many of the other accessory prosecutors have lost loves ones or have experienced suffering. But I also know that we cannot turn back the time. But we can do one thing: we can never stop questioning. When this trial is over, we all should continue to look for answers. Maybe we will never find out everything, but we will collect the many puzzle pieces and put them together until a picture of the truth emerges before our eyes. Then others will have to look us well.”
The final closing statement was held by counsel Yavuz Narin, who announced that he would keep it short since
„my words could never adequately describe the suffering, the suspicions and the humiliation suffered by my clients over the years. They could never adequately capture the havoc wreaked in their lives by the defamation of their father and husband as member of organized crime, as a drug dealer or people smuggler, could not describe how the hours-long questionings, the lies told by the police, and the loose talk of co-workers, classmates and neighbors made them feel.”
But his clients withstood all that, as Narin detailed by directly addressing the three women:
„From one day to the next, the world had turned away from you. And despite this sudden loneliness, you have stood by Theo over all these years, have believed in him and have trusted that the truth would come to light one day. In every second of that time you have shown more backbone, pride and grace then all the accused and all the amnesiac witnesses put together. […] Today the name of Theo Boulgarides has been rehabilitated. Today your father can rest in peace since his daughters have developed into wonderful human beings. He can be proud that you even had the courage, the power and the human greatness to forgive Carsten Schultze.”
Narin once more turned to the absolutely insufficient fact-finding concerning the NSU crimes, giving examples. As a low-point of state ignorance towards the victims, he referred to the explanation by a Hessian domestic secret service officer trying to justify his agency blocking of the investigation into the murder of Ismail Yozgat:
“’We are, after all, only dealing with a case of homicide. … Can you imagine what the loss of trust does to a person (referring to Andreas Temme)?’ I ask you as a lawyer: which state interest in secrecy can trump the right to life and the human dignity of the citizens?”
Yavuz Narin closed by appealing to the members of the court:
“I, too, on behalf of my clients, wish to appeal to you to be troublesome. You are independent. […] Please find the courage to lay down also what this trial could not achieve, were it had to remain incomplete. Find the courage not to pretend that everything is fine. I am certain that this court will pass a judgment that will withstand the scrutiny of the appeals process. I appeal to you to pass a judgment that will also withstand the scrutiny of history.”