Trial of the “Tiergarten Murder”: Which Vadim was it?

At the start of the Berlin “Tiergartenmord” trial, the defendant remains silent. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office sees Russian state agencies behind the act.

The hall of the Moabit Criminal Court: Who is behind the murder in Berlin’s Tiergarten? Photo: Odd Andersen / afp Pool

BERLIN taz | Under strong security precautions, a diplomatically highly explosive murder trial began on Wednesday in front of the Berlin Supreme Court. A Russian citizen is accused of having shot and killed a Georgian citizen in a park in the German capital. What makes the case a political issue: The prosecution assumes that Russian state agencies are behind the crime.

It’s a complicated case. Even who actually has to answer before the 2nd criminal senate responsible for state security matters is controversial. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is convinced that they have indicted Vadim Nikolajewitsch Krasikov, born on August 10, 1965 in the Chimketskiy region of Kazakhstan. The defendant denies this. “My name is Vadim Andreevich Sokolov,” he states in a short statement read by his defense. He was born on August 20, 1970 in Irkutsk, Siberia.

It could be “that I sometimes use one name, sometimes the other,” says the presiding judge Olaf Arnoldi. “That shows that I’m not committed.”

What happened on August 23, 2019 in the Kleiner Tiergarten park in Berlin-Moabit is beyond dispute: shortly before 12 noon, a man on a bicycle approached the asylum seeker Selimchan Changoshvili, a Georgian of Chechen descent, from behind. When he reached him, the man shot a silenced 9 mm Glock 26 pistol in the side of Changoshvili’s upper body.

“Use” as a contract killer?

But the first shot only hurts him. The perpetrator shot twice more, now in the head of his victim lying on the ground. The indictment read out by federal prosecutor Ronald Georg states that the two headshots “led to the destruction of vital vital structures and thus to an immediate failure of regulation” – a terribly bureaucratic description of the death of a person.

Shortly after the crime, Krasikov, alias Sokolov, was arrested. The police had been alerted by two youths who had seen him changing clothes in a bush not far from the crime scene and then throwing a bicycle, a wig, clothes and a bag into the Spree. The murder weapon was in the bag.

The identity of the accused is irrelevant to the question of whether he committed the murder he is charged with. However, it is of central importance for the search for the motive and possible backers. In contrast to the supposedly innocent civil engineer Sokolov, Krasikov is on record: The Russian authorities searched for him by international arrest warrant for a murder committed in 2013 that is very similar to the one committed in Berlin.

But in 2015 they deleted the wanted notification without any explanation – possibly because a use was found for it. At least that’s what the Federal Prosecutor’s Office assumes.

No movement

The Berlin Supreme Court borders on the Kleiner Tiergarten, so it is only a few hundred meters from the crime scene. In the act it was “according to our knowledge to a contract murder of state Russian authorities”, said Federal Prosecutor Georg.

The defendant carried out the killing “either in order to receive an unknown financial reward” or because he shared the motive of his client to liquidate a political opponent with Changoshvili in order to retaliate for his role in the second Chechnya war and to practice its participation in further armed conflicts with the Russian Federation ”.

The reading of the indictment in the high-security room 700 was followed by Krasikov alias Sokolov without any visible emotion. He was silent about the allegations. His client will currently “not get involved”, said Robert Unger, one of the three defense lawyers. The process is initially set to last 25 days.


Antigypsy attack near Ulm: more dangerous than the incendiary device

Two men were convicted of trying to set fire to a Roma family’s trailer. The verdict is mild, but the accessory prosecution is nevertheless satisfied.

A handcuffed defendant in the courtroom is now on parole Photo: Stefan Puchner / dpa

KARLSRUHE taz | Nothing is left of the murder allegation against five neo-Nazis, and yet Daniel Strauss, state chairman of the Association of Sinti and Roma, says: The probationary sentences, which at first glance seem mild, have strengthened his confidence in the rule of law. Because as far as he knows, this is the first ever verdict for expelling Sinti or Roma in Germany.

The Ulm regional court has sentenced five young men to suspended sentences of between ten months and one year and four months. They confessed to having thrown a wax torch from a car at night into the warehouse of 18 caravans of a French Roma family who had rented a campsite in the village of Erbach-Dellmensingen. The court followed an appraiser’s assessment that the incendiary device was not life-threatening and dropped the murder charge.

But in essence, the trial was not about the danger of the torch: the court wanted to name and punish the perpetrators’ obviously antiziganistic motives. They had already detonated firecrackers and placed a dead swan in front of the camp. The juvenile criminal division of the Ulm Regional Court therefore found that the young men had committed the crimes for “racist, xenophobic and antigypsy motives”. “They wanted to create a climate of fear and horror in order to drive the Roma family out”. You are convicted in 45 cases of complete coercion.

The defendants did not even attempt to cover up their motives. They showed themselves on cell phone photos with a Nazi salute and Reich flags. Apparently, those around them found nothing unusual about it, as the defendants freely admitted. “If you go to the pictures on the cell phone, you could put something in every second person in the village,” said one of the defendants in the trial. The parents also left their children’s racist SMS messages unchallenged.

Fight prejudice

In juvenile criminal law, it is about bringing about a change in the accused, emphasizes Mehmet Daimagüler, who represented the interests of the victims in the process as a joint plaintiff. He does not believe that imprisonment would make the defendants better people. He therefore remained in his pleading under the demands of the public prosecutor and is now satisfied with the verdict.

After all, in the eyes of the court, one of the defendants credibly broke away from right-wing extremism after the fact. At least in the closing words, all five men regret their act and some of them have already voluntarily paid 5,000 euros for offender-victim compensation. In the end, however, says Daimagüler, one cannot look into the heads of the accused.

What remains is the attempt to clarify. Even before the incident, the regional association of Sinti and Roma, together with the city of Ulm and other partners, planned an advice center in Ulm’s old town. Now the branch of the regional association is to take on another task: political education work to combat prejudice.


Trial of the Nazi attack in Halle: The pain of the victims

In the trial of the attack in Halle, the father of the shot Kevin S. reveals how the act changed his life. A statement leads to applause.

Painful memories: photos of the victims of the Halle attack in front of the Magdeburg district court Photo: Jan Woitas / dpa

MAGDEBURG taz | Nothing is processed. Karsten L. stops, trembles, fights back tears, then he can no longer. “I tried to call Kevin. 20, 30 times. He didn’t answer. Nothing, nothing, nothing. ”In the evening, after six hours of anxiety, he placed a missing person ad on Facebook. Then a friend wrote to him that he would send him something. It was the video in which Kevin, Karsten L.’s son, is shot. “I looked at it.” Then he can no longer speak, the tears overwhelm him. He cries for several minutes, and several co-plaintiffs also cry. The judge must interrupt the questioning.

The man who took his son Kevin S.’s life is sitting diagonally across from Karsten L. in the Magdeburg district court on Tuesday: Stephan B., charged with two murders and 68 attempted murders. On October 9, 2019, B. tried to storm the synagogue in Halle and posted the crime on the Internet. The 28-year-old failed, but he shot and killed Jana L. Then he drove to the nearby “Kiezdöner” to murder migrants. There he murdered Kevin S., who was having lunch there.

The attack is a beacon to this day, negotiations have been taking place in Magdeburg since July. On Tuesday Karsten L. is now a witness. It will be the only appearance by a bereaved of the two murder victims in the trial. Jana L.’s mother also takes part in the trial as a joint plaintiff, but according to the court she asked not to have to make a statement. Karsten L., however, wants to talk.

The scaffolding builder reports how his first son died shortly after he was born. His second, Kevin, was diagnosed with mental and physical disabilities. But Kevin fought. He finished the special school, completed internships at a painting company in Halle and finally started an apprenticeship there. “His dream job. He really blossomed. ”And Kevin became a passionate fan of Halleschen FC, built up a circle of friends there, traveled to games, and stapled every ticket. “He built it up himself,” says Karsten L. “He was extremely proud.” And so was the father, the witness appearance leaves no doubt about that.

One life – destroyed

But then came October 9, 2019, nine days after Kevin’s training began. The father reports that he spoke to his son on the phone that morning. Then he heard about the attack in Halle and tried to reach his son, his mother did too. Without success. “That wasn’t normal. I was hoping he lost his cell phone. But that was unlikely. ”Then he got the video of the fact. Saw his son still hiding behind a refrigerator, how he shouted: “Please don’t!”. The 20-year-old had no chance.

For Karsten L., life has been destroyed since then. Kevin’s mother and he are still receiving psychological treatment, partly inpatient, he reports. Three times he thought it couldn’t go any further, called the police. “It’s difficult, we need extreme help.” Stephan B. stares at the fighting father, motionless. A victim attorney points out to the judge that the defendant rolled his eyes. He says no. At the beginning of the trial, B. had regretted killing Kevin S., mistaking him for a Muslim. He shows no more remorse in the process.

Ismet and Rifat Tekin’s lives have not been the same since the attack. The brothers have been living in Halle for twelve and five years, working in the Kiezdöner, now as owners. Now they too are witnesses to the trial. Rifat stood behind the counter during the attack.

At first he thought a soldier was coming into the shop, he says. Then shots were fired, he was hiding behind the counter. When the perpetrator turned his back on him, he ran out of the store. Ismet had left the shop shortly before, and a pavement bullet shot past him too. He hid behind cars. When Stephan fled and he came into the shop, Kevin S. was already dead.

“We want to stand firm”

He still suffers from insomnia today, says Rifat Tekin. Ismet adds that his brother used to make everyone laugh that it was over. “It pains me to see him like that.” He has also been telling lies to his mother in Turkey for months so that she doesn’t worry.

He doesn’t actually want to go to the store anymore, says Rifat Tekin. But his brother wants to keep it running. “That’s why I support him. We want to stand firm, we want to stay here, we want to stand up for this country. ”Ismet Tekin does not want the assassin to win either:“ We will not go away and we will not give up our shop. ”

Photos of the murdered people and shirts from Halleschen FC are still hanging in the Kiezdöner. The snack bar is now also a memorial, says Ismet Tekin before the day of the trial. And sales have collapsed. Fewer and fewer guests are coming, after the Corona outbreak, the snack bar had to close completely for three weeks. The support promised by politicians also failed to materialize. “It is very difficult.”

In the meantime, a fundraising for the Kiezdöner is underway – initiated by the Jewish Student Union and a group of young Jews who were in the synagogue during the attack and celebrated Yom Kippur there. “We believe in a multicultural society in this country,” it says in their appeal.

One last message

Jeremy Borovitz, one of the believers from the synagogue, appealed: “Please donate”, Ismet Tekin is “an extremely decent man in a world gone mad”. A good 6,400 euros have been raised so far. Ismet Tekin is touched by the solidarity. He wants to use the money to expand the snack bar to include a breakfast café, he says. Maybe things will look better again.

Ismet Tekin has traveled to the trial almost every day of the trial. On Tuesday he spoke to the accused directly, calling him a “coward”. Stephan B. smiles. “Nobody deserves to die like that. Can you imagine how much strength it takes a mother to raise a child? What kind of pain does it mean when it loses its life in this way? “

Ismet Tekin said he couldn’t believe that no one was aware of the bomber’s plans. Even though he chatted so much on the internet and made guns at home with his parents. “It is not an act of an individual.” He also does not understand the hatred. All people are foreigners somewhere in the world. Stephan B.’s defense attorney intervenes, believes the execution is too dissolute, but the judge lets Ismet Tekin continue to speak.

And he announces a final message to Stephan B. “You didn’t win. You have failed all along the line. The result is even more solidarity and love. We won’t go away. And guess what? I’m going to be a father, I’m having a child. And I’ll do my best to raise it here. ”Applause breaks out in the hall. The judge lets it go.


Trial of alleged Nazi terrorists: “Slightly right attitude”

In 2015 right-wing extremists terrorized refugees and leftists in Freital. Now defendants are again on trial for this.

The swamp in which the group found itself: right-wing protest in Freital 2015 Photo: Oliver Killig / dpa

DRESDEN taz | On Monday morning, Freital’s recent past opens up again. Then when Sebastian S., Ferenc A., Stephanie T. and the former NPD city councilor Dirk Abraham enter the hall of the Dresden Higher Regional Court. Four right-wing extremists, 27 to 52 years old, charged with participating in a terror series in their hometown five years ago.

The events seem a long time ago. Today Freital is discussing again about missing daycare places, about a corona case at the grammar school, about the approaching 100th city birthday. But in the summer of 2015 there was another everyday life. At that time, refugees came to the city. In Freital it was reacted with hatred. Citizens and right-wing extremists protested in front of an asylum shelter, a vigilante group emerged, and finally a series of attacks on accommodation and left-wing politicians that lasted for months.

The series of violence caused a sensation nationwide, in the end the federal prosecutor’s office investigated. As early as 2018, eight local right-wing extremists were sentenced to long prison terms of up to ten years – as an organized terrorist group. Now the quartet follows in court, which according to the indictment supported the core group or, as the investigators have since established, was part of it itself.

Above all Sebastian S., a beefy 27-year-old, was involved. He is said to have been part of the FTL 360 vigilante group, which later became the terrorist group. With this, the neo-Nazi is said to have participated in one of the attacks on an asylum shelter: a window was blown with reinforced firecrackers, and a refugee was injured in the face and eye by a splinter. Some of the explosives had 130 times more power than conventional fireworks. The act is counted as attempted murder.

With swastika flag, Bengalos and Hitler salutes

Sebastian S. is also said to have been there in an attack on the car of the former Left City Councilor Michael Richter in Freital and on an office belonging to his party. Ferenc A. is also said to have participated in the car attack. Stephanie T. is said to have supported the group, she was in a relationship with an already convicted person. When he was in custody, she encouraged him not to “whistle” to the “comrades”.

In Dirk Abraham, a man is now also accused, who was still a member of the Freital City Council for the NPD until 2019. He is said to have been the administrator of the vigilante Facebook group, also part of a chat group and thus also a member of the terrorist group. For the attack on the left office, the 52-year-old is said to have given tips, for example about the safety glass on the front window. In addition, he is said to have smeared slogans such as “Refugees not welcome” or “No home” on the town hall and other walls with Ferenc A. and others in Freital. And at a meeting of the group for a photo shoot on a Freitaler Berg – with a swastika flag, Bengalos and Hitler salutes – Abraham was there.

The four defendants followed the allegations of the Dresden Public Prosecutor’s Office in court. Nobody is in custody. Judge Hans Schlueter-Staats promises suspended sentences – if there are early confessions. The right-wing extremists take turns announcing that they want to testify.

Ferenc A. begins. Instead of a confession, however, a tough question-answer game follows. “Is everything that I’ve been accused of being true,” mumbles the man in the black hoodie. He got to know the others at a rally in front of the initial reception center in Freital, the former Hotel Leonardo. Later they hung out at the gas station. When it came to attacking the car of Left City Councilor Richter, he threw in: “Why don’t you ask me?” People sneaked in at night, Sebastian S. had smashed the car window with a baseball bat, he threw an explosive device into it.

A “deceptive calm”?

Schlüter-Staats asks: Why did it hit this politician? “He did a lot for the asylum seekers and we didn’t want it that way back then.” And the refugees, should they go? Ferenc A. nods. “Well, that was the main topic.” Otherwise A. hardly wants to remember anything. Sometimes they went to the demo in Dresden, sometimes to Heidenau, where there was right-wing riot. But more specific, names of those involved? “I never know,” A. replies again and again. A victim’s lawyer asks what his political stance was at the time. “Slightly right attitude.”

Stefanie T. also rejects almost everything. She was the applicant for one of the first anti-asylum rallies in Freital, and also in the central chat of the later core group, in which, according to self-definition, “exclusively the terrorists” gathered. But there it only claims to have been added. She really didn’t read anything, “I wasn’t interested in that.” Even with the swastika photo on the mountain, she only “came along spontaneously”.

If the others make similar statements, it could be a lengthy process of taking evidence – in which some of those already convicted could testify. Four of them have since been released on parole. On the other hand, investigations are still underway against three suspects in the Freital complex.

One of her victims at the time was Steffi Brachtel. The left-wing local politician got involved with refugees in Freital, opposed the racists – and became their target. Brachtel’s name was sprayed on walls with threats, her mailbox was blown up and her son attacked. In the trial, Brachtel will testify as a witness. Yes, it has become quieter in Freital, says the 44-year-old. “But I don’t know whether it’s a deceptive calm.” Because many people who mobilized against the refugees are still there. And a new comradeship is currently being organized in nearby Dresden.

In fact, Freitals Mayor Uwe Rumberg initially downplayed the deeds. He also criticized the asylum policy and some refugees as “soldiers of fortune”. In June of this year he resigned from the CDU with eight other local MPs because of “major differences in content on various political issues”, including asylum policy. The AfD, the strongest force in the city council since 2019, rejoiced over the “courageous step”.

Steffi Brachtel therefore remains on guard. The mood could change again at some point, she fears. Especially now that many right-wing conspiracies were again attached to the Corona crisis. “We have to be careful,” says Brachtel. “And I’ll keep my mouth open if necessary.”