The NSU trial has been going on for almost a year. The court’s will to clarify the matter seems to be flagging. The joint plaintiffs are outraged.
In any case, the demonstrators are more committed than the judiciary. Picture: dpa
To get to the Munich Higher Regional Court, Ismail Yozgat traveled 500 kilometers. He took his wife and three daughters with him and sat with them in room A101, towards the back. Yozgat wears a gray suit, in his hand he holds a piece of paper, his statement.
It is Tuesday, March 11, and the Munich NSU trial will again be about Halit, his son, who only turned 21. On April 6, 2006, he was shot dead in Yozgat’s Internet cafe in Kassel. The prosecutors assume that it was the right-wing terrorists of the NSU: Uwe Bohnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. A constitutional protector from Hesse is summoned and a police officer from Kassel.
After questioning the official, Judge Manfred Gotzl gives Yozgat the floor. "I greet the court and the family members of the martyrs," reads the 58-year-old Yozgat in Turkish, an interpreter translates. Gotzl interrupts him. Does the statement refer to the witness heard, as required by the Code of Criminal Procedure?
"There has to be that much time," interjects Yozgat’s lawyer Thomas Bliwier. Yozgat could not travel to every day of the trial. If there were no discussion now, the statement would have been read out long ago. Gotzl blushes: "It’s unseemly for you to come at me like this!" Ismail Yozgat’s expression remains unmoved, heavy furrows lie in his face. He folds up his note again.
It is not the first time that it is getting loud in room A101. Since last May, Beate Zschape and four alleged NSU accomplices have been on trial there for ten murders, two bomb attacks and 15 bank robberies. More and more often, the victims’ lawyers have been clashing with the court or the federal prosecutors.
NSU victims appear as procedural ballast
Three weeks ago, 33 of the 50 lawyers representing the victims published a statement. In the NSU trial, they said, the investigation "has long been regarded as a nuisance, especially by the Federal Prosecutor General". NSU victims were "degraded to seemingly unnecessary procedural ballast".
This was a scathing criticism in a trial that had been launched to try the biggest state failure in recent times. Attorney General Range spoke of "our September 11." The chancellor invited to a memorial act and promised the relatives to "do everything to solve the murders and to uncover the accomplices and backers."
Ismail Yozgat also took to the podium at the time. He wished, he said, "that the murderers and their helpers would be caught. My trust in the German justice system has always been there. From now on, I hope, it will be perfect."
In the Munich trial, by contrast, the joint plaintiffs see the will to clarify the facts flagging. "In the meantime, we have to fight for every new scrap of file, every paper," complains Sebastian Scharmer, representative of Gamze Kubasik. Her father, kiosk owner Mehmet Kubasik, was shot dead in Dortmund two days before the murder of Halit Yozgat.
Scharmer, a man with a blond braid and a law firm in Berlin, is particularly critical of the prosecutors. "The federal prosecution is working with blinders on to get the trial through as quickly as possible." As a result, central questions remained unanswered: Were there other NSU helpers? What did the domestic intelligence service really know?
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is more than dubious
Again and again, it is also about a man who is sitting on the witness stand on Wednesday: Andreas T., tall, half bald. The constitutional protector was in the Kassel Internet cafe in 2006 when Halit Yozgat was shot. T. claims to this day that he had no knowledge of the crime. The prosecution considers this to be implausible – the Federal Prosecutor’s Office considers it to be incontrovertible. He could "no longer remember the exact circumstances", T. said also on Wednesday.
It is not the first interrogation of Andreas T. For the joint plaintiffs he is a face of the failure of the authorities, for the court a sideshow. His files are partially blocked for the trial. According to the court, they contribute nothing to the clarification and may only be read in the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe, copies may only be made in exceptional cases. "This is work in a state of emergency," complains joint plaintiff Scharmer.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office rejects the criticism. "We have meticulously pursued all investigative leads from the very beginning," says a spokesman. More than 1,000 witnesses were questioned, and around 1,400 leads were examined. The court would have to focus on the charged acts and defendants.
Is it only about the question of guilt? Or is it also about proving investigative errors? The trial has lasted 93 days so far, and more than 100 witnesses have been heard. The trial is scheduled to run until the end of the year, but it will probably take longer: Witnesses refused to testify, questioning dragged on. And Zschape remains silent to this day.
Empathy is far from the judge’s mind
Much now hangs on Judge Gotzl. He meticulously refers to the code of criminal procedure. Empathy is far from his mind, for all sides. Gotzl decides now, says Nebenklager lawyer Scharmer, whether the clarification further room. "Or whether the thing here still escalates."
On Thursday, the judge let Ismail Yozgat present his statement after all. He tells of the false suspicions of the investigators. And about his grandson, Halit, who recently died of cancer. With all due understanding, that is not the point here, interrupts Zschape’s defense attorney Wolfgang Heer.
Gotzl rejects him: Yozgat should talk. He says he has confidence in the court. And he has a wish: the street where his son was born and murdered should be called Halitstrabe.