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#HalleTrial Antisemitism Far-right extremism

3rd Day of Trial Short Report: A Well Connected Lone-Wolf?

On the third day of the trial, the questioning of the accused was continued by the representatives of the co-plaintiffs. In addition to specific questions regarding details on the course of the crime or statements made by the accused on the first two days of the hearing, the representatives of the co-plaintiffs asked particular questions concerning the process of radicalization of the accused and his online and offline contacts.

The alleged attacker did not only remain calm when asked about his intentions to kill or his ideology, but he also laughed repeatedly or tried to provoke the interrogators with counter-questions, while responding to their questioning with one-worded answers. However, he seemed thin-skinned when the questions were related to his family or other personal contacts he had before the alleged crime. For example, he was confronted with various statements by former classmates, other acquaintances or his sister, reporting on the accused’s racist and antisemitic statements in the past. The accused denied making political statements and stated that he does not remember some of these alleged statements of his. In addition, he claimed to have been drunk in all instances. One of the co-plaintiffs’ lawyers reported regarding a witness admitting witnessing the accused while involved in an argument with a knife in 2016, which followed the accused openly expressing antisemitic statements among acquaintances, were apparently met with resistance. The accused laughed in response and stated that he could not think of anything to say in response.

Questions about contact with his family during his imprisonment were answered relatively briefly. He said he wanted to protect his family and therefore did not want to give any information about their current place of residence. He was said to be aware that a suicide attempt by his mother was attributable to his act. Furthermore, he refused to comment in detail on the suicide note that she had apparently written to her daughter, the accused’s sister, whilst she was attempting to commit suicide. In this suicide letter, which was read out in the courtroom by the presiding judge in the afternoon, were mentions of antisemitic conspiracy theories to be found, concerning the motives for her son’s alleged crime and its investigation. According to the mother’s letter, her son “gave his life for the truth”. She also drew crossed-out Stars of David in the letter several times. However, the accused claimed he never talked politics with his mother. He said the letter’s content could be explained by his mother being under the influence of alcohol and medication. When asked by a representative of the co-plaintiffs whether he had shown his mother videos of the right-wing terrorist assassin from Christchurch, who had murdered 51 people on 15 March 2019, he answered in the strongest possible negative.

The defendant was visibly surprised when a lawyer questioned him about five people with whom he allegedly developed lively correspondence during his time in prison. He refused to disclose the contents of this correspondence and would not answer any further questions from this lawyer. Once again, on the third day of the trial, the accused shocked the public with racist, antisemitic and violence-glorifying statements while confirming his belief that he is engaged in a fight against Jews, Muslims and non-whites, a fight in which all means seem justified to him. Some of his statements were so absurd that they caused laughter among those present in the courtroom, for example, when he mentioned his hatred of the supposedly Jewish “Star Trek” story. On other occasions, he directly approached litigants or disclosed his inclination to unbridled violence.

The presiding judge repeatedly found clear words addressing the accused: according to her understanding, a fight is a confrontation between equal opponents. She said that the accused did not fight, but hid in the children’s room for years and then insidiously shot unarmed people. In the course of the interrogation, she also addressed the co-plaintiffs and suggested that they should reconsider whether they wanted to give the accused more room to present his ideology while answering their questions. The lawyer Kati Lang summarized her impression at the end of her questioning: “You are spreading national-socialist and fascist ideology. That is exactly what you are –  a Nazi”.

Already in questioning the accused, the interest of the co-plaintiffs in his orientation, his contacts and their radicalisation via online channels became clear. For example, he was asked why he used elements of the Incel scene, an extremely misogynous online movement, or in which areas of darkness he was active. Similar to the questions about offline contacts, the accused got irritated and mostly refused to answer these questions. In this sense, the questioning of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) official Rainer D., who interrogated the defendant shortly after his crime and who is highly familiar with the proceedings, was also not very informative. He gave a detailed account of the interrogation, which lasted five days in November 2019, and drew a clear picture of the defendant’s radicalization: it started with a severe illness resulting of a serious disease in 2013 (as described by the accused). This illness may be related to drug-abuse according to the co-plaintiffs. It continued with the “refugee crisis” and exacerbated by the attack in Christchurch. Accordingly, since 2013 he mostly isolated himself socially (offline), lived dependently and gave up his studies. However, in 2015 a phase of arming had begun. The assassination attempt in Christchurch had finally led the accused to his decision to commit the crime he is currently accused of.  

Although he wrote several reports about the case and the accused, while assisted by police experts, D. was unable to provide sufficient information about the accused’s behavior online. It was however possible to prove that he was active on the darknet and downloaded violent videos and right-wing extremist content, for example from the Atomwaffen Division (a national-socialist terrorist network). One must also assume he had an extremely active exchange with like-minded people. However, concrete activities are difficult to prove, also because the accused actively made sure to hide his tracks.

After D. stated that he could not show any special expertise in the area of imageboards, using which the defendant was allegedly very active, and where he allegedly received a donation of 0.1 Bitcoin (at that time the equivalent of around 1,000 euros), the representatives of the co-plaintiffs strongly suggested to the Senate that  appropriate experts be called in. Their expertise was indispensable to clarify whether and to what extent the accused acted with the knowledge or support of others. The witness D. was dismissed. According to the court’s spokesman Wolfgang Ehm, the accused’s family members and other persons from his private environment were among those summoned to the fourth day of the trial.