Karlsruhe (dpa) – More than 20 years after a pipe bomb attack on a group of language students in Düsseldorf, the question is whether the person responsible will ever be found and tried.
A man from the right-wing scene who has long been suspected of being a hit man has been legally acquitted since Thursday. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe upheld a ruling by the Düsseldorf Regional Court, which ruled in a late 2018 acquittal because there was no clear evidence against the now 54-year-old. (Az. 3 StR 124/20)
The attack took place on July 27, 2000 on the Wehrhahn S-Bahn station. Ten of the language students from Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan were injured, some critically, and a pregnant woman lost her child. Some of the victims are Jewish.
The right-wing extremist, who lived only 500 meters from the crime scene, was quickly suspected at the time – also because he had a militaria shop directly opposite the language school. But in 2002 the Prosecution had to close the case. Years later, when an ex-con claimed the man confessed to the crime, the investigation was resumed.
In the trial before the Düsseldorf Regional Court, however, there was no clear trace or evidence, and witnesses barely remembered or became entangled in contradictions after the long time. That was not enough for the judges, they decided to acquit.
This acquittal was based on about 100 pages with no legal errors, BGH judge Jürgen Schäfer said in the verdict. The assessment of the evidence is in fact a matter for the judge and the court of appeal to accept in the outcome – even in cases where a different conclusion would have been closer. The suspect is now entitled to compensation.
The public prosecutor’s office appealed. During the negotiations in Karlsruhe at the end of November it had already become clear that this would not be very promising. At that time, not only the defense pleaded for ratification of the acquittal, but also the federal prosecutor’s office. It appears at the BGH instead of the public prosecutor’s office and does not need to appeal.
Schäfer said that regardless of the outcome, it became clear again during the negotiations how great the suffering of the victims was. From one second to the next her life was no longer the same.