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#HalleTrial Antisemitism Far-right extremism

22th Day of Trial Short Report: Pleadings of the Joint-Plaintiffs in the Halle Trial

On December 1, 2020, the 22nd day of proceedings in the Halle trial, nine representatives of the joint plaintiffs gave their closing statements. They largely agreed with the demands of the (Fderal Public Prosecutor’s Office(GBA), but in part sharply criticized its inadequate efforts to shed light on all the murder attempts that had taken place in the context of the crime. A survivor of the attack, İsmet Tekin, took the floor himself.  

The mother of the killed Kevin S. had managed to attend the trial for the first time today, said the joint plaintiff’s representative Christian Eifler at the beginning of the trial day. The consequences of the attack and the burden of the trial had been too much. Out of consideration for his client, he had decided to give only a short final speech, Eifler said. With a trembling voice and clearly moved, he addressed the accused directly. He said that he had “taken a child from a mother in the most disgusting, perverse way”. Finally, Mr. Eifler asked the court to fully exhaust the legal possibilities to put the accused “in prison for the rest of his life”. 

Eifler was followed by Attorney Erkan Görgülüs closing arguments. Mr. Görgülü, who represents the father of Kevin S., also kept his statement brief, did not make a specific request and for the most part agreed with the demands of the Federal Attorney General (GBA). He asked the court that the accused “never again be released”. Görgülü considered the GBA’s assessment that the crimes against İsmet Tekin and Aftax Ibrahim were not attempted murders to be incorrect. The accused had fired in the direction of Tekin near the kebab restaurant and hit Ibrahim with his car while fleeing, injuring him. The Attorney General’s Office had not classified either of these acts as attempted murder in the indictment and upheld this assessment in the closing statement. With the last words of the son of his client “No, please don’t. Please don’t. No. Please, please don’t. No, please don’t.” Attorney Erkan Görgülü ended his plea,

Lawyer Onur Özata, joint plaintiff’s representative of the brothers İsmet and Rıfat Tekin, joined Görgülü’s criticism. He said that the GBA had “done everything” to “keep his client İsmet Tekin out of the proceedings” and criticized the fact that they continued to maintain the “wrong assessment”. The accused had acted intentionally, at least to a limited extent, and the act was to be considered an attempted murder. Attorney Özata accused the GBA of having neglected “underlying hostile perceptions of the attack” and of having “fallen for the accused’s tricks” by basing the prosecution essentially on his statements and by not showing any willingness, either before or during the main trial, to clarify further aspects of the crimes.

The accused had indeed carried out the crime on his own, but he was “not an outcast, but had come out of our bosom,” said Attorney Özata and referred to statements by former SPD politician Thilo Sarrazin, police trade unionist Rainer Wendt, and politicians from the AfD. Furthermore, recent results of the Leipzig authoritarianism study had shown that extremist right-wing attitudes were still very widespread among the German population.

In the name of his clients, Mr. Özata thanked the Mobile Victim Counseling Center (Mobile Opferberatung), the Jewish Students Union (JSUD) and all those who had shown solidarity.

Finally, Mr. Özata quoted the lawyer Fritz Bauer: “I think Germany would exhale, and the whole world, and the bereaved families of those who fell at Auschwitz. And the air would be cleared if a humane word were finally spoken.” He believed Bauer would have been satisfied with this trial, Özata said, “because this trial was also a humane one.”

In a short statement, İsmet Tekin thanked the court and said that if “the coward”, as Tekin called the accused, did not want to kill him, he did not know why he suffered from massive nightmares and pain.

Ilil Friedman, joint plaintiff representative for Aftax Ibrahim, also sharply criticized the GBA: in her plea she contradicted the “completely absurd assumption” that the attack on Ibrahim was merely a traffic accident. The accused had wanted to kill Jews, Muslims and Blacks, and the act against her Black client was a continuation of the attack. In assessing the facts of the case, a comparison with various speeding verdicts of recent years, in which drivers had been convicted of murder, seemed almost inevitable. According to Attorney Friedman, it is not comprehensible why recklessness is assumed in these cases – but in this case of the act of an openly racist terrorist and murderer, the intention to kill is denied. It is “doubtful whether there was ever a serious interest” in treating this act as an attempted murder.

 In contrast to the BKA, the expert Karolin Schwarz was able to provide insights into anonymous online forums and image boards on the 19th day of the trial, which had played a “prominent role” for the accused, said attorney Kristin Pietrzyk in her closing statement. Although no connections of the accused with far-right groups could be found, it is not possible to speak of an “isolated individual perpetrator”. Even during the crime, the accused had communicated with “his people” through hints, and he did not want to betray them in the course of the trial in order to remain part of “his peer group full of racists, antisemites and anti-feminists”. The accused had committed the crime alone, but had not radicalized himself alone. Similarly, family and friends did not contradict him, said Pietrzyk, recalling the oobvious antisemitism in the farewell letter written by the mother of the accused.

Attorney Mark Lupschitz recalled in his final remarks, that a group of affected people had not appeared in person before the court for different reasons. To give them a voice at the end of the trial, Lupschitz quoted the phrase “Mir záynen do” (engl. “We are here”) from the Yiddish partisan song “Zog nit keynmol,” which was composed in the Vilnius ghetto in 1943. “We will not let our way of life be taken from us,” said Lupschitz. “We”, the plaintiffs, “who decided not to appear, but also all those affected by the terrorist attack” and the people “outside the courthouse”.

It was part of the accused’s plan to make the main trial against him his stage, said Attorney Dr. Kati Lang in her closing speech. This had been prevented by the powerful appearance of many plaintiffs. Lang emphasized that the attack was not only antisemitic and racist, but also misogynously motivated, and that the accused shot Jana L. out of misogynistic motives. She warned against including the main trial in the narrative of a “good Germany”. Instead of cultivating heroic narratives, for example about the legal reappraisal or the synagogue door made of “German oak,” one must always look at how many times the state has failed. State and society could not protect those affected by the attack and in the aftermath of the attack, many things were devastatingly wrong. It was only the committed plaintiffs and experts who illuminated the overall societal context of the crime during the trial

Lawyer RA Gerrit Onken referred to the line of tradition of right-wing terror, in which the attack of Halle can be situated. Racist hate, as it is practiced in many parts of society, has now been been followed by acts. Act and the perpetrator had shown “what happens when someone sets out to defend the white majority society.” At the end of his closing lecture, Attorney Onken quoted the words of the joint plaintiff Mollie S. directed at the accused: “You will cause me no more torment. It ends here and now.” Onken bowed before the plaintiffs present.

Attorney Antonia von der Behrens read the closing words of a survivor from the synagogue, who did not want to be named. It said: “The silence on antisemitism and right-wing extremism must be broken.” This is especially the responsibility of the majority society. 

Since the attack, he wears a kippah almost everywhere, according to a statement read by Attorney von der Behrens from the joint plaintiff Jeremy Borovitz. Several times a month he is confronted with antisemitism, said Borovitz. It left him “no peace” that someone had come to his aid only once. He often has the feeling that bystanders “don’t want to perceive such things.” He said that “at least one person” was guilty in this process, but that the entire society was responsible. “Every day, every minute we have to raise our voice. Whenever we see something, we have to do something to prevent another Halle from happening again,” says Borovitz.

In her final remarks, Attorney von der Behrens dealt in detail with the behavior of the police towards those affected. In the course of the trial, survivors had made numerous statements, some of them harsh, criticizing the actions of the police and state authorities. Attorney von der Behrens noted that none of the incidents described had “been put in any form on record.

On behalf of all three clients, the attorney agreed with the motions of the Attorney General’s Office and concluded her plea with a quote from her client Rebecca Blady: “The accused will never be successful. […] I am the living proof. People like him will never succeed.” She would not be turned away from her work in the Jewish community in Germany.

After individual final remarks of the joint plaintiffs, spectators and joint plaintiffs stood up as a sign of recognition. After the last plea on this day of the trial, the accused tried to provoke by also standing up, grinning.

The trial will continue on December 2. Further final remarks are scheduled for December 8. A verdict is expected before the end of this year.