Karlsruhe (dpa) – The victims of the Düsseldorf Wehrhahn attack have been waiting for the attacker’s accountability for two decades – but a longtime suspect was acquitted in 2018 and it could possibly stay that way.
At the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe, neither party pleaded on Thursday to overturn the decision of the Düsseldorf regional court. The top German judges now want to take the time to deliberate and announce their verdict on January 14.
On July 27, 2000, a pipe bomb exploded on a pedestrian bridge near the Düsseldorf S-Bahn station Wehrhahn when a group of language students, some of them Jewish, from Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan were staying there. Ten of them were injured, some seriously, and a pregnant woman lost her child to a splinter.
The now 54-year-old defendant, a right-wing radical who had a militaria shop directly opposite the language school, was quickly suspected at the time. But in 2002 the Prosecution had to close the case. It wasn’t until years later, when an ex-con claimed the man confessed to the crime, that the investigation was resumed. The problem: There was no clear evidence or evidence in the indirect trial, and witnesses barely remembered or became entangled in contradictions after the long time. That was not enough for the judges of the court.
The prosecutor’s office, which saw the suspect convicted and demanded life imprisonment, appealed to the BGH. However, the first instance public prosecutor no longer appears at the hearing in Karlsruhe. This is done by a representative of the federal public prosecutor’s office, whose revision service investigates the case beforehand.
Here she decided to oppose the public prosecutor of Düsseldorf and request the rejection of the appeal. A basic rule of the criminal procedure code is the free assessment of evidence by the court, federal prosecutor Matthias Krauss said after the BGH hearing. “There were five judges who decided – and they weren’t convinced.”
The appeals court could only check whether the assessment of the evidence contained gaps or contradictions or whether the regional court judges had drawn illogical conclusions, Krauss said. He could not recognize such errors, even if a different outcome was just as possible. “He could have been found guilty.”
Lawyer Olaf Heuvens said he hoped the acquittal would become final in January. The procedure has burdened his client for twenty years. He thinks he’s innocent. “He talks too much, sometimes he talks too much stupid things – but despite everything, he is not the culprit of this Wehrhahn attack.”
The victims’ lawyers, who appeared as co-plaintiffs in the Düsseldorf trial, declined to file their own petition but are hoping for a retrial. One of them, Yuri Rogner, said before negotiations began that he was still awaiting justice. “The secondary prosecutor assumes that the real culprit was in port.” If not, the search must be continued. “You can’t just forget something like that.”