Verdict to be pronounced on Wednesday, 11 July. Last words of the accused without any surprises.
Today the public gallery in the courtroom was filled to the very last place. However, before the court could give the accused the opportunity to present their last words, victim’s counsel Erdal brought a final motion: back in February, he had moved that the Christian cross in the courtroom be removed during the pronouncement of the verdict; this motion had been rejected by the presiding judge just yesterday. Today Erdal asked for a review of that decision by the full court. He remained unsuccessful.
Many seemed to see his motion today as an annoying distraction, coming as it did so shortly before the verdict. In our view, calling upon the court to heed the state’s obligation to religious neutrality is entirely right, and accordingly it was also entirely right to raise the issue today after the initial motion had been rejected yesterday.
The court then turned to the accused and asked if they had any last words.
Zschäpe stated early on in her statement that what she had said shortly after her arrest – “I did not turn myself in in order to not speak” was still true for her – and proceeded to disprove herself by not saying anything of any substance. Her last words followed the same line as before: a lot of self-perception as a victim of the prosecution, victims’ counsel and the press, very few words of apology tossed to the victims. Her attempt to distance herself from neo-Nazi thought was similarly pale and noncredible – Zschäpe stated that she accepted the opinions and ideology of the other accused, but that she had decided for herself that “right wing opinions” did not play a role for her anymore.
The last words of the other accused were a lot shorter: Gerlach apologized once more for the fact that his acts – the fact that he had been “unable to say No” – had caused further suffering to the victims; he closed by stating that he hoped for a just verdict. Wohlleben simply referred back to his statement in court in December of 2015 and to the closing statement of his counsel – the latter having included Hitler quotations and the like. Carsten Schultze above all referenced the meeting with members of the Boulgarides family, as well as statements of several victims and their counsel, who had accepted his apology and statements of remorse. While he would never be able to fully make amends for the guilt he had brought upon himself, he would try to work on himself as if that were possible.
The verdict will be pronounced on Wednesday, 11 July, from 9.30 am; it is likely that the court will also continue on Thursday. A demonstration in front of the court building under the heading “kein Schlussstrich – no closure” has been announced for the entire day on Wednesday. Demonstrations will also take place in many other cities either on the day of the verdict or on Saturday, 14 July. The aim of these demonstrations is to show that the court’s judgment cannot and will not mark the end of fact-finding concerning the NSU complex and of drawing the necessary consequences.