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#HalleTrial Antisemitism Far-right extremism

17th Day of Trial Short Report: Once Again, Criticism of Investigating Authorities

On the 17th day of the trial, several law enforcement officials testified about the attacker’s time in prison. BKA officials (Bundeskriminialamt, German State Police) were also heard on the finance inquiries, the pre-crime phase and the evaluation of the music played by the attacker during the crime. The joint plaintiff’s attorneys again clearly criticized the investigations.

On October 14, 2020, the 17th day of the trial against the attacker of Halle took place. Several prison officials were summoned to testify about the execution behavior of the accused, and in addition, an employee of the psychological service of the Halle prison reported on his impressions. Three BKA officials were heard on the finance inquiries, the pre-crime phase and the evaluation of the music played by the attacker during the crime. The joint plaintiff’s attorneys once again emphasized the structural problems in the investigation work and the gaps in the investigation of the attacker’s online contacts.

The trial day began with the welcoming of two main law enforcement officials in the correctional facility Burg (Justizvollzugsanstalt, JVA), Mr. P. and Mr. P.-D. Both are involved in the daily routine of the prisoners – they are responsible for the distribution of food, newspaper distribution, inventory control and securing showers, free time, etc. Regarding the detention conditions of the accused, they reported that he is in solitary confinement, i.e. he has no contact with fellow prisoners and, to their knowledge, only receives visits from his family. Beyond that, neither official was aware of any abnormalities –the accused seems to be familiar with the rules of conduct. “Apart from that, I can say nothing positive or negative. He is just there,” said Witness P.

The third witness was Kriminalhauptkommissarin R. (KHK, Detective Chief Superintendent). The BKA official was in charge of evaluating the music that the attacker had played during the time of the crime. The attacker had attached wireless speakers to the back of his protective vest, through which he played a previously prepared playlist. Among the titles were several songs with openly anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic lyrics. Witness R. classified other songs as so-called “Anime Music”. She also pointed to references to the assassination attempt in Toronto, to the “Incel scene”, and to memes with racist connotations, such as the “Moon Man”. She presented a comprehensive report, but stated that she had no prior expertise in this area. She also mentioned that she could not say much about image boards and the connections between the “Alt Right scene” and the “Incel scene”.

In the subsequent questioning by the joint plaintiff’s attorneys David Herrmann, Alexander Hoffmann, Onur Özata and Benjamin Derin (representing attorney Ilil Friedmann), it became evident that KHK R. lacked some important information about the crime that could have been relevant for her evaluation. For example, one of the songs referred to the Toronto bomber who drove his car into a crowd of people and killed ten people. With regard to passages of the song referring to this type of execution, the witness testified that she could not establish any direct connection to the Halle attack. She had not known that the attacker was also accused of having hit a black person while fleeing the scene. Furthermore, when she had classified 8 of the 12 songs as un-ideological “Anime Music”, she had not been aware that manga play an important role on image boards and that the attacker’s manifesto also contained manga drawings with Nazi references. When confronted with this by D. Herrmann, she stated that she might have classified the anime songs differently if she had known about it.

D. Herrmann made it clear before his questioning that he was not interested in criticizing the witness personally, but the structures. He asked whether the BKA had a pool of expertise on such topics somewhere – i.e. people who were familiar with right-wing extremist Internet phenomena – and whether they had also been involved in the work on these topics. The witness could not make a statement on this. D. Herrmann appealed to the court to summon someone with a more holistic knowledge of these phenomena – if there was such a person – and found bold words: “If we were to seat an 18-year-old with an affinity for the Internet here, he could tell us more than all the BKA officials. I am extremely disappointed and appalled.”

Senior Public Prosecutor Schmidt then decided that the time had come to say something fundamental. One must strictly differentiate between the BKA as part of the criminal prosecution authorities and as government authority responsible for national security and the protection against threats. The witness has appeared here as an investigator and has fulfilled her mission to the utmost satisfaction. About strategic concepts of the BKA concerning the internet investigation one cannot publicly inform, otherwise they become worthless.

D. Herrmann replied that obviously nobody wants to hear about confidential concepts of national security authorities. “But the Federal Public Prosecutor General’s Office cannot be seriously satisfied with the investigation results, which were supplied here. This is simply not thorough police work.” He concluded that it does not exactly strengthen the public’s trust in the police if one gets the impression that there is a whole field that nobody understands.

Afterwards attorney A. Hoffmann was given the floor to make two comments regarding the statements of the last witness Kriminalhauptkommissarin R. (KHK, Detective Chief Superintendent) and of Kriminaloberkomissar W. (KOK, Detective Superintendent), who had been summoned the day before. He expressed his respect to witness R. for the work she had done without any previous knowledge on the topic. Nevertheless, he pointed out that giving her this order without thorough information devalued her work. In his second comment, A. Hoffmann noted that the witness W. from the previous trial day had summed up that there were no clues regarding confidants or supporters. When questioned on the stand, however, it turned out that the investigation of contact persons was limited only to persons who were either obvious or named by the accused himself. The online contacts could not be determined, so assessments were made based on the assumption that the accused had prior knowledge of the production of ammunition solely as a result of his chemistry studies. On this basis, an assessment of whether the accused had supporters or helpers was not possible at all.

The certified psychologist Roland W., who was the next witness to testify, met the accused as a staff member of the psychological service of the Halle prison. He stated that a behavioral pattern characterized by aloofness and a limited range of emotional expressions in the interpersonal sphere had been evident. Emotional coldness and a limited affectivity were striking – the only time the accused was more excited was when he talked about his ideology and motivation for action. He was particularly struck by the frequent, inappropriate laughter of the accused, which occurred especially in situations in which the accused was confronted with arguments that contradicted his views. Such a rigid way of thinking, like that of the accused, is almost impossible to disrupt. Besides having said that he felt sorry for his family, there was no other pity or remorse the witness could gather from him. He once said that he regretted the two deadly victims, but emotionally no significant emotional resonance was noticeable. The witness emphasized one incident that he remembered particularly well. The two men exchanged their views about the accused’s world view. He confronted him with the fact that he held a completely different point of view and that other people could also have different opinions. Then the accused suddenly jumped up, raised his voice and paced around the room. In this situation there was no inappropriate laughter, one could feel his anger. He then asked him how he could explain the fact that he behaves as if he could attack the one man, with whom he had talked in the last months more than with anybody else in years. This was the first time the accused had no answer. He wanted to see him again anyway. Overall, he was very calm, and such extreme excitement was an exception. The witness compared this brief, impulsive behavior with reports of incidents, in which the accused allegedly insulted strangers who did not speak German.

In addition, the psychologist brought up a letter from the accused’s sister, which the accused brought with him to a meeting. In it she described how the public relied on the family, and that their mother wanted to take her own life. She asked him what he was thinking, saying that he had not even met the target group – Jews. If the mother could not have been saved, three people would have died, the sister wrote.

After the statement of the psychologist, attorney Dr. Kati Lang from the joint plaintiffs was given the floor. She filed a motion for evidence to invite Mick Prinz from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation as an expert witness on the gaming behavior of the accused. Among other things, she said, his activities and the meaning of his user names on the gaming platform Steam should be discussed, as well as the question to what extent he had been able to acquire knowledge about the construction of weapons using certain games. The presiding judge gave the opportunity to submit comments on the topic until October 26, 2020.

After the statement of the psychologist, attorney Dr. Kati Lang from the joint plaintiffs was given the floor. She filed a motion for evidence to invite Mick Prinz from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation as an expert witness on the gaming behavior of the accused. Among other things, she said, his activities and the meaning of his user names on the gaming platform Steam should be discussed, as well as the question to what extent he had been able to acquire knowledge about the construction of weapons using certain games. The presiding judge gave the opportunity to submit comments on the topic until October 26, 2020.

The next witness, Ms. M., is the head of the prison in Halle. She also described the accused as “eager to be isolated” and reports that she did not notice any expression of emotion from him. Information regarding the accused’s attempted escape was not permitted by her testimony.

Thereupon KHK E., who had dealt with the financial investigations, was called as a witness from the BKA. The accused’s bank account had received regular payments from his parents until the termination of his studies, later only profits from the sale of items. He assumed that the accused had lived at his parents’ expense. The accused sometimes made cash deposits before making online purchases. Payments to weapon companies, companies dealing with militaria and the purchase of chemical substances were traceable. It remained unclear where the cash he deposited in 2019 came from.

In addition, the accused’s family was also taken into account in the investigation. In the parents’ account, payments to companies from which goods were purchased that could have been used to build weapons were identified: In the case of the father, among other things, precision tubes and lead shot, and in the case of the mother, the purchase of a combat helmet in 2012 was recorded.

Asked by the presiding judge regarding indications of possible Bitcoin transactions, the witness said that although they had found evidence of a Bitcoin address and minor payments, nothing was found regarding the alleged 1,000 euros that the accused claims to have received.