10 April 2018

The court tries to speed up the proceedings. Nonetheless, defense closing statements will likely only start next week.

The closing statements of the Zschäpe defense will likely not be held before next week. Further delay was caused today by Attorney Daniel Sprafke from Karlsruhe, new counsel of accused Eminger – Eminger had apparently terminated the relationship to attorney Björn Clemens, formerly of the right-wing “Republican party”, after only a few days. Sprafke, who so far is not known for having defended members of the Nazi scene, had requested that he be appointed as additional assigned counsel and that the trial be interrupted for three weeks to give him time to become acquainted with the proceedings. Both requests were denied today, based mostly on the – very true – argument that there was no reason to doubt that Eminger was adequately defended by the two counsel already assigned to him. 

Sprafke reacted by asking for a two-hour trial break in order to discuss with Eminger whether to bring a challenge for alleged bias. When that break was not granted and the presiding judge instead assured him that he would be allowed to bring the challenge at the end of the trial day or tomorrow – a procedure which is far from unusual in criminal trials – Sprafke tried to resist, but soon became entangled in the situation he had himself brought about. Inter alia, he switched wildly between the claims that he wished to discuss whether to bring a challenge for alleged bias, that he wished to bring a challenge and needed time to write it down, and that he had already brought such a challenge. In the end, the court upheld the decision of the presiding judge not to grant a break.

At that point, Zschäpe defense counsel Stahl took the floor and stated that the closing statement of defense counsel Borchert and Grasel was in danger of being interrupted if Borchert started his closing statement today, but was then unable to continue tomorrow after the challenge had been brought. Borchert joined this objection.

During the lunch break, Sprafke cobbled together a very thin – in every sense of the word – challenge against the presiding judge. The members of the bench tasked with dealing with this challenge, judge Dr. Kuchenbauer presiding, then began an oral hearing on this challenge – but quickly changed their minds and returned to written proceedings after counsel Heer had objected to the presence of the general public in the courtroom during the proceedings.

The trial will now continue tomorrow at noon, very likely with the challenges for alleged bias brought by counsel Sprafke.

The decision of the presiding judge to postpone the announced challenge, as well as the attempt at oral proceedings on the one challenge brought, show the court trying to pick up the pace and bring the trial to an at least somewhat speedy and dignified close. It was high time for the court to do so – after all, the very laborious way it dealt with various defense motions has already led to the trial grinding to a halt for two months after the end of the prosecution closing statements and another two months after the closing statements of victims’ counsel. However, given that even the attempt to hold an oral hearing on the defense challenge was stopped within minutes, it remains to be seen whether the court will succeed in speeding up the proceedings. It is to be feared that the trial proceedings this week will come to an end tomorrow after the challenges likely to be brought by the Eminger defense.

Thus new Eminger defense counsel Sprafke has managed to bring about a further delay in the trial. Whether he will actually achieve substantial results for the Eminger defense is very much in doubt – his entry into the trial today was a rather bumpy one.