Christchurch imitators convicted: isolated and right-wing

The would-be right-wing terrorist Felix F. should go to adolescent psychiatry. The court did not see enough evidence of an actual risk.

Felix F. is said to have suffered from mental disorders for years Photo: Ole Spata / dpa

HILDESHEIM taz | In Hildesheim, the verdict was pronounced in the Felix F. case, who had announced an attack on Muslims in a video chat based on the Christchurch model. The 22-year-old is to stay in adolescent psychiatry for the time being.

On the hard drive of his laptop were hundreds of videos, pictures and music with extremely right-wing content that Felix F. had collected. Numerous notes were found in his apartment – with swastikas and SS runes. The police officers who had evaluated his data carriers had testified last week.

The defendant asserted, however, that he only wanted to deal with the ideology of National Socialism. A statement that the psychiatric expert Andreas Tänzer questioned in his remarks. He emphasized that “the consumption of such quantities was not justified with an objective interest in providing information”.

Dancer reported that Felix F. had developed massive anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders and then a combined personality disorder, which made him unable to act in many life situations. In the end he was overwhelmed and isolated and only had contacts on the Internet.

Defender sees no radical right attitude

Felix F. had expressed the attack plans to one of these contacts, a completely stranger who was randomly leaked to him as a video chat partner. He had claimed that he was armed and standing in front of a mosque. In the early hours of the next day, the police stormed his home.

Chief Public Prosecutor Katharina Sprave saw the total of six counts, in particular the preparation of a serious act of violence endangering the state, as fulfilled and demanded a total imprisonment of three years. Felix F.’s notes would show that “his desire for such violence exists” and she sees the danger that the accused will put his verbal aggressiveness into practice.

In contrast, defense attorney Kurt Georg Wöckener emphasized in his closing argument that his client had admitted all of the insults he was accused of. Felix F. did not have a right-wing extremist attitude and he did not mean the statements regarding the attack seriously.

Convicted of threatening a 15 year old

The court did not comply with the total imprisonment of three years demanded by Sprave because it did not consider it sufficiently proven that the weapons found on Felix F. – crossbows, knives, a baton – were actually intended for a rampage. And since the threat took place in a video chat, there was also no disturbance of the public peace.

Felix F. was only convicted for insulting and threatening a 15-year-old on Facebook. He should continue his psychiatric treatment and then move into an assisted living group. The attorney general in Celle announced that it would appeal against the judgment.

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Goldfinger tax-saving model: criminal proceedings have been discontinued

gold bar

With gold trading companies abroad, top earners could generate tax losses and ideally reduce their tax burden to zero.

(Photo: dpa)

Düsseldorf It was the first of a whole series of planned criminal trials for the controversial Goldfinger tax model, which was once popular with income millionaires. Now the proceedings against two accused lawyers before the local district court have come to an end after a year

The proverbial image of the tiger, which ended up as a bedside rug, has seldom fitted as well as the Augsburg public prosecutor’s approach in this case. Because the pilot process in one of the largest tax penal complexes in the republic ended in an embarrassment for the investigators.

The proceedings against the two Munich lawyers were discontinued. Officially “because of insignificance”. In practice, the negotiated end behind the scenes, which the public prosecutor had to agree to, means an acquittal. Even more so, because the state and thus the taxpayer will have to compensate the two defendants accused of tax evasion.

The men who were in custody for months and whose office subsequently collapsed will probably each receive a sum of a million. Because practically none of the prosecutors’ narrative about tax evasion through sham deals was true. And the investigators themselves have long been threatened with criminal trouble.

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CHINA: Four years imprisonment for blogger for critical corona reports – WELT news channel

  1. CHINA: Four years in prison for blogger for critical corona reportsWORLD news channel
  2. EU calls on China to release blogger Zhang Zhant-online.de
  3. How China nips criticism of corona management in the budThe press
  4. Journalist in China sentenced to four years for corona reportsnachrichten.at
  5. Blogger in China: Four years imprisonment for reporting on CoronaSmall newspaper
  6. See “More on Topic” in Google News

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Crimes of the Colonia Dignidad in Chile: No reconsideration in court

The crimes of the Colonia Dignidad are unlikely to come to justice. The suspicion of a crime against a man convicted in Chile is insufficient.

Unsuccessful protest: In 2013, victims’ members demonstrated in front of Hopps house in Krefeld Photo: Pascal Beucker

BERLIN taz | Involvement in murder, assault and aiding and abetting sexual abuse – these are the allegations made by victims of the Colonia Dignidad against Hartmut Hopp. He was the head of the hospital of the German cult settlement founded in Chile in 1961, where unpaid forced labor, sexual violence and the forced administration of psychotropic drugs were the order of the day.

Hopp was a close confidante of the sect leader Paul Schäfer and was seen as a liaison to the Chilean secret service DINA, which tortured and murdered hundreds of political prisoners on the Colonia Dignidad grounds during the Pinochet dictatorship.

The Krefeld public prosecutor closed the criminal investigation against Hopp in May 2019. Now the Düsseldorf Public Prosecutor’s Office refuses to reopen these investigations. It was the last ongoing investigation into Colonia Dignidad in Germany.

In Chile, Hartmut Hopp was finally sentenced by the Supreme Court in 2013: to a prison sentence of five years for aiding and abetting the sexual abuse and rape of children by Paul Schäfer.

No sufficient suspicion

But Hopp evaded this punishment by leaving for Germany in 2011. Since then he has lived undisturbed in Krefeld. As a German citizen, he will not be extradited to Chile. An application by Chile to serve his sentence in Germany was rejected in 2018.

After a complaint by the lawyer Petra Schlagenhauf, who represents several victims, the Krefeld public prosecutor initiated investigations in 2011 against, among others, Hopp. The allegations: involvement in murder in the form of the disappearance of political prisoners on the grounds of the Colonia Dignidad, assault in the form of the forcible administration of psychotropic drugs without medical indication, and aiding in the sexual abuse of children.

The prosecutor closed the case in 2019 without charge. However, Schlagenhauf emphasized that several of the witnesses she had offered had never been heard and lodged a complaint against the termination of the investigation.

The Düsseldorf Public Prosecutor’s Office, as the next higher instance, now rejects this complaint and declares that “sufficient suspicion against the accused” cannot be substantiated. “Evidence or promising investigative approaches” with which the accused’s involvement in the murder of three opposition activists in Chile in 1976 could be proven, were not available even after a renewed examination.

Germany a “safe haven”?

“The investigations were never conducted with the necessary depth and energy to enable a decision to be made as to whether an indictment is justified in the end,” criticized attorney Schlagenhauf. Several perpetrators have since fled to the “safe haven of Germany” in order to evade the Chilean judiciary.

Overall, the German judiciary failed before the crimes of Colonia Dignidad and “did not understand the dimensions in which they took place”. For the clarification, “very deep and very costly and on your own initiative” should have been researched and determined. “I did not see this willingness,” said Schlagenhauf.

The investigative authorities lacked the necessary understanding of the complexity of the Colonia Dignidad system, said the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in a statement. For an overall view, the entire structure – and not just the individual case – must be determined.

Those affected are now left with an administrative complaint, an attempt to force a lawsuit against Hopp, and later perhaps also to go to the Federal Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights, according to ECCHR.

The judiciary must dedicate itself to the education, so relatives

For his doctoral thesis, Jan Stehle from the Research and Documentation Center Chile-Latin America (FDCL) has examined all preliminary investigations of the German judiciary against the Colonia Dignidad over the past 60 years.

“They were all hired on the grounds that there was no urgent suspicion. In no case were charges brought, ”explains Stehle. The signal of the decision: Germany is a “safe haven” for perpetrators. Here they could go unpunished.

The Bundestag decided in 2017 that the federal government should clear up the crimes of the Colonia Dignidad and do everything possible to support legal clarification. The relatives of the missing prisoners have been demanding for years that the German judiciary should help to clarify the fate of their loved ones.

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Defendant in the Lübcke trial: one memory, many questions

Besides Stephan Ernst, was there another perpetrator involved in the murder of Walter Lübcke? The statement made by Lübcke’s son suggests this.

The defendant Stefan Ernst with his lawyers Mustafa Kaplan (l) and Jörg Hardies (r) Photo: Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images / dpa

FRANKFURT AM MAIN taz | Stephan Ernst enters the hall of the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court on the 37th day of the hearing in handcuffs. He has been in custody for more than a year. His former friend from the neo-Nazi scene, Markus H., has been a free man since October and chats casually with his lawyers.

While one of them faces a life sentence for the murder of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke, the other could get away with a mild sentence. Ernst’s contribution is secured because of a DNA trace at the crime scene, H’s involvement is still unclear. The former “comrades” have long since become bitter opponents in court.

“We are through with our evidence program!” With this remark, the presiding judge of the 5th Criminal Senate, Thomas Sagebiel, once again signaled this Thursday that he considers the evidence to be exhausted. He actually wanted to announce the verdict in December.

But out of consideration for the accessory prosecution, and thus for the family of the murder victim, he had to give up his schedule. Sagebiel decidedly rejected their allegation that the court was treating co-defendant H. too “friendly”. But after the appearance of Christoph Lübcke, a son of the former CDU politician, two days ago, the court again has unanswered questions.

Christoph Lübcke’s statement leads to open questions

On Tuesday, Lübcke junior testified as a witness in this process. From his memory he described a memorable encounter with two men that had irritated him and his father very much. One afternoon in early 2018 they noticed two men at the family’s house in the small town of Istha, where the Lübckes lived.

Was that when Walter Lübcke met his later murderers?

They would have stared at her, just as if the two men had been watching her for some time. “What was that now?” Asked his father, irritated. The witness said on Tuesday that he noticed his beard, a blue or green spotted camouflage jacket and a “batschkapp” (flat cap) on the smaller of the two men.

Was that when Walter Lübcke met his later murderers? The statement made by the Lübcke son matches a statement made by the main defendant, Ernst. Since his first police interrogation, he has repeatedly stated that in February or March 2018 he and his then friend Markus H. drove to Lübcke’s place of residence to spy on the politician, the target of their mutual hatred. However, with conflicting versions of the fact, Ernst has contributed to the confusion several times.

At first he testified that he committed the murder alone. He later named H. as a shooter, and in the meantime he has confessed several times to having shot himself. However, they decided to act together, out of anger over Lübcke’s commitment to refugees.

Contradictory statements by the defendant

If H. had observed the crime scene with Ernst, H. would probably be an accomplice, even if he cannot be proven to have been directly involved in the murder. But how reliable are the statements of the main accused, who delivered different versions of the crime, for the court?

After all, the statement made by the Lübcke son is explosive. Accordingly, the opposing defense lawyers try to include this statement in their argumentation. H’s defense attorney speaks of a “sham memory”, the family is convinced that he was involved, so the statements are precisely coordinated.

On the other hand, she sees Ernst’s defense as evidence of Ernst’s credibility. After all, on Thursday the court sifted through photos from the time when both defendants belonged to the right-wing scene. H. was actually out and about with Bart and Batschkapp, together with Ernst.

“No clear identification,” comments H’s defense attorney and the presiding judge also has more questions than answers. He calls Ernst’s expressive behavior “changeable and doubtful”. In October, when H. was released from pretrial detention, the Senate signaled that it did not consider his conviction for murder to be likely based solely on the statements of the main defendant. It should stay that way.

The process will continue on Tuesday, but the evidence should actually be completed soon. In any case, new witness interviews are no longer planned.

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Georgia Supreme Court also rejects Trump lawsuit

Another setback for Trump
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Georgia Supreme Court also rejects Trump lawsuit

Another setback for Trump’s team: The result of the US presidential election in the state of Georgia remains. There is no evidence for the defendant “massive fraud”.

The state’s Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit from President Donald Trump late Saturday night. The judges’ panel decided that the applicants had not shown that it was one of the extremely rare cases where the judges had jurisdiction. The lawsuit was filed in early December – Trump’s legal team argued in Georgia, as elsewhere, that the election in early November had resulted in massive fraud. There is no evidence to support this claim.

Electoral College electors will meet on Monday to formally elect Joe Biden. Trump’s challenger won the election more than a month ago, but the incumbent doesn’t accept it.

The legal defeat in Georgia is one of several setbacks that Trump’s team has already suffered in court for the election result. On Friday, the highest court in the United States, the Supreme Court, dismissed a lawsuit intended to reverse Biden’s election victory.

(lha / dpa)

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Alma Zadić presents the new JustizOnline platform – multimedia

JustizOnline follows FinanzOnline: Minister Alma Zadić launched the new platform on Wednesday, which digitally saves citizens many judicial processes.

“I am very pleased that with JustizOnline we can open a new, digital access to the Austrian courts and public prosecutor’s offices today”, said Justice Minister Alma Zadić on the occasion of the launch of the platform on justizonline.gv.at. “Citizens and companies will be able to interact easily and digitally with the judiciary in the future. Thanks to JustizOnline, existing concerns or questions can be raised quickly, unbureaucratically and without any time restrictions.”

Specifically, the platform offers access to proceedings such as the status of the proceedings, summons, overview of dates and entries as well as retrieval of documents, inspection of files and the download of files, important forms and applications to courts and public prosecutors, a company register query, chargeable documents and also chargeable downloadable land register extracts. There are also explanations and answers to judicial-specific problems in everyday life.

“In the future, citizens will quickly and digitally get their rights”

The platform should offer “the highest standards of accessibility and security”, it works on smartphones and computers. The Justitia chatbot can also answer simple legal questions. A glossary of terms is used to explain legal technical terms in an understandable way. For the implementation of the platform, all citizens “from digital natives to retirees” were interviewed and involved on the official day at courts, judges and law firms.

“It is clear that we will continuously optimize the platform and expand it with additional services. With today’s launch of JustizOnline, we are giving the starting signal for a gradually growing platform, because JustizOnline is supposed to be the central digital access for all digital services of the courts and public prosecutors be “, said Zadić. “In the future, citizens will get their rights quickly and digitally.”

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Why the economy shies away from civil litigation

Trial files in the courtroom

The number of civil cases received has decreased significantly in all instances since 2004. Only last year did the trend turnaround.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin At the moment, the administrative courts in particular are groaning under the lawsuits against the corona measures that the federal and state governments have decided. The pandemic has so far had little impact on civil courts.

“But I do expect that certain types of disputes will still turn up in the courts,” said the President of the Nuremberg Higher Regional Court, Thomas Dickert, the Handelsblatt. These included proceedings for non-performing loans, rent arrears or vacation cancellations. “We don’t have to worry about running out of work right now,” says Dickert.

The president of the court keeps a close eye on the situation in the civil courts. Under his chairmanship, the presidents of the higher regional courts have been dealing with the “modernization of civil proceedings” for more than a year. First a thesis paper was created.

The comprehensive report is due to be completed in early December. But can digitization find its way into the code of civil procedure, which dates back to 1879? The corona crisis has shown that this is necessary. At least the courts could – if the technology was available – switch to video conferences.

But it is obvious that there are deficits: the number of civil cases has decreased significantly in all instances since 2004. Only last year did the trend turnaround. A good 350,000 new civil cases were pending in the regional courts, around five percent more than in the previous year. At the local courts, the number of entries also increased, but only by 0.4 percent. The main drivers for this are likely to be the diesel proceedings and the enforcement of passenger rights.

However, companies themselves are reluctant to go to German courts. This is also confirmed by the court figures from the Federal Statistical Office: the number of complaints filed by the Chambers of Commerce has halved over the past ten years.

Lawyers like Steffen Lorscheider from the Dortmund commercial law firm Spieker & Jaeger can quickly list reasons for this: “Companies perceive the proceedings to be too long, lack the professional expertise of the judges and consider the proceedings to be too complicated.”

“The civil process must become more flexible and faster”

Lorscheider remembers a procedure with English-language oil tanker charter contracts in which a lengthy expert opinion had to be obtained because of a short passage. Because only German is the language of the court, and the judge was only allowed to use this translation.

Or the court hearing in Munich on purchase price adjustment clauses, in which the judge did not even know the key figure “Ebitda”, ie the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. “The parties reached an out of court settlement within two weeks,” says Lorscheider.

The business attorney considers himself an advocate of the state process. He also knows the disadvantages of arbitration and mediation. “But the civil process must become more flexible and faster.”

This is where the President of the Court Dickert comes into play. For example, he and his colleagues suggest centralized online dishes. The accelerated process should run completely digitally, “prepared and processed by chatbots and intelligent forms,” ​​as Dickert explains.

The case material can therefore even be entered without a lawyer. If evidence is required, this would be carried out by video conference.

First of all, the online courts could be used in mass disputes between complaining consumers and defendant companies, for amounts in dispute of up to 5000 euros. An extension to other processes would be conceivable later.

Specialized chambers

The report also provides for “structured procedures” to be introduced in which the parties to the dispute present themselves online in tabular form, instead of repeatedly exchanging extensive briefs. “In the future, the fax must be abolished as a means of transmission,” it continues. The determination of costs in civil proceedings could in future be largely automated with artificial intelligence.

But Dickert also sees that specialized chambers should be set up for commercial matters, with commercial judges who come from the business world and are familiar with the matter. “This saves expert opinions and time,” he says. “And the judges could negotiate on an equal footing with the highly specialized lawyers.”

The way there seems to be a long way – even if the “civil case of the future” is now also on the agenda of the autumn conference of the justice ministers of the federal states in Bremen at the end of the week. “It is our aim that the proposals from judicial practice are set down in the next coalition agreement,” explains court president Dickert. “This is the only way there is a realistic chance that they will then be pushed and find themselves in the Federal Law Gazette in the foreseeable future.”

More: No end in sight in the investor process for the VW diesel affair

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Femicides in Germany: Legislative blind spot

Every week in Germany three women die from partners or ex-partners. The left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag calls for more decisive action.

The lockdown made many things worse: Protest against violence against women in May Photo: Sachelle Babbar / picture alliance

The couple had been married for a long time, both were in their late 50s. They lived in a small town in the north of Brandenburg, the children had long since left the house. “They were employed, middle-class, everything was totally normal,” says the Berlin lawyer Christina Clemm. Clemm represented one of the adult children in the district jury trial after the wife was found dead in her bed. Her husband had strangled her.

The case, says Clemm, stuck in her mind, even if it was a few years ago: Because it is typical of what happens when a man kills a woman. “In the process, there was an incredible amount about the fact that the woman had emancipated herself a little from the relationship, for example wanted to travel alone,” says Clemm. “And about how much it made him feel humiliated.”

The man cried a lot during the trial. He stated that he acted emotionally: In an argument, he didn’t know how to help himself other than that she should finally be quiet. Clemm doubts the act of affect to this day, “because the situation in bed spoke against it”. However, the court came to the conclusion that the perpetrator had endured a prolonged difficult situation in which he feared he might lose his wife.

The pent-up despair has indeed discharged. The perpetrator was convicted not of murder but of manslaughter. In addition, the sentence was reduced to four and a half years in prison because of the affect. “That’s very little for a complete killing,” says Clemm. “But that happens a lot in the area of ​​intimate partner violence.”

Terrifying numbers

The act Clemm describes is a femicide: it is the killing of a woman in the context of gender-based violence. According to Clemm, there is hardly any awareness of this phenomenon in German criminal law. The President of the German Association of Women Lawyers, Maria Wersig, also criticizes: “The prevention, prosecution and sanctioning of the killing of women on the basis of their gender is given little priority in this country.”

This may also be due to the fact that the federal government has so far been reluctant to recognize the problem for Germany at all, as Alex Wischnewski from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation says, which has just published the brochure “Femicides in Germany”. In response to two small questions from the left faction in the past two years, the government twisted itself out. In response to a request from the taz, the Federal Ministry of Women lists measures against violence against women, but confirms that no statement can be made about the number of so-called femicides.

And when the police crime statistics in the area of ​​intimate partner violence were presented last week, neither women’s minister Franziska Giffey (SPD) nor the president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Holger Münch, used the term.

The BKA registered 142,000 cases of intimate partner violence in Germany in 2019, more than 80 percent of those affected are women. While men run the risk of being killed by others, especially outside of a partnership, the relationship is most dangerous for women: 117 women died in that year by partners or ex-partners. Many fear that Corona will worsen the situation.

What is behind the deeds remains in the dark

The women’s political spokeswoman for the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Cornelia Möhring, is now calling on the federal government to investigate, name and prevent femicides in Germany. In the media, homicides against women are played down as “jealousy dramas” or “acts of relationship”, says Möhring, who in the run-up to the International Day Against Violence Against Women at the end of November wants to bring her parliamentary group to the plenary on Thursday. “But all of these killings happen in the context of devaluing and oppressing women.”

In addition to the recognition of the term, a “Femicide Watch” observatory should be set up, demands Möhring, which should record all killing, every fatal accident and alleged suicide of a woman in Germany and research the causes of femicides.

The data situation is thin. Research has so far made clear that critical situations for women are, in particular, separations, pregnancies or personal professional successes. There is a structural dimension to the acts that is obscured by the lack of terminology, says lawyer Clemm; All these cases would be negotiated as if they were surprising individual cases. Often there is understanding for the perpetrator, his difficult relationship and the fear that his life plan will fail.

This understanding can also be traced back to the fact that the Federal Court of Justice ruled again and again, and most recently in 2019, that there is no lower motive for a killing if “the separation is based on the victim and the accused deprives himself of what he actually does not lose want”. As in the case that was negotiated in the north of Brandenburg, such a low motive would be decisive in order to convict the perpetrator not only of manslaughter but also of murder.

The perspective of the Federal Court of Justice is deeply patriarchal, says Clemm. If a man is desperate, it is understandable. To kill someone because of it, however, makes an “absolute claim to ownership” clear. Not even cases in which a woman is mistreated for years and ultimately killed would necessarily be punished as homicide, let alone murder, says Clemm. Often they would only be convicted of bodily harm resulting in death. The perpetrator, it was said, “only” wanted to abuse his wife and did not intentionally kill her. And because of the violence she had previously experienced, the woman should have expected an attack to come.

“In general, intimate partner violence is often blamed on the victim,” says Clemm. “The question then is why the woman has not ended the relationship long ago.” On the contrary, it would be necessary to ask why the perpetrator did not immediately look for a place in therapy and leave the woman the first time he struck to protect them.

Femicides make up only a small part in the area of ​​intimate partner violence, in which many other acts – 115,000 women were affected in 2019 – do not lead to extremes: those in which women only wake up in hospital. Or those where the perpetrator stops strangling the woman at the last second. “Only when we say there is a real problem here,” says Clemm, “does it become apparent which patterns are underneath.”

Clemm, Möhring and the female lawyers’ association are calling for a new interpretation of the applicable law. In a policy paper from the beginning of November, the female lawyers’ association writes: The low motives for the killing should no longer be questioned simply because the victim has separated from the perpetrator. This follows from the evaluations of the Istanbul Convention, the internationally binding agreement of the Council of Europe to combat violence against women.

Christina Clemm, Rechtsanwältin

“I’m interested in awareness of gender-based violence and a change in the system behind it”

It is the right of every person to decide with whom he or she enters into or maintains a partnership, according to the Lawyers’ Association. An intimate relationship between perpetrator and victim should not be considered to mitigate punishment, but on the contrary, in homicides, could lead to classification in the case group of “low motives”. Public prosecutors and judges would have to receive mandatory training on the subject of gender-based violence. But one thing above all must stand in the foreground of all of this: prevention.

“It may sound contradictory – but I don’t think much of life-long or long prison sentences,” says Clemm. “What I want is an awareness of gender-based violence and a change in the system behind it.” Creating understanding for other gender roles, even in daycare centers and schools. Promote counseling services, expand the network of far too few women’s shelters. And break the taboo that surrounds talking about violence in a partnership.

For the relatives of the victims whom Clemm represents, the trials that are carried out against the perpetrators are often ambivalent. “It’s not just a dead mother, but the perpetrator is usually her father at the same time. That wrecks the whole family. ”For many it is important to understand how things got this far. But even then, the situation often remains incomprehensible. “Good,” says Clemm, “it won’t be for anyone anymore.”

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Austria’s ex-finance minister Grasser is worn down by a monstrous process

Karl-Heinz Grasser

The process costs the Austrian more than one million euros.

(Photo: Reuters)

Wien Austria’s former finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser (51) suffered an “eleven years of martyrdom”, he says. For alleged bribery and infidelity, he had to face a monstrous court case in recent years. The investigation lasted seven years, the negotiations before a Viennese jury three. The indictment is 825 pages long.

The judge Marion Hohenecker is currently working on the verdict. At the center of the process is an extensive real estate transaction. In 2000 Austria under Finance Minister Grasser made the decision to sell various federal housing companies, including the so-called Buwog. Around 60,000 apartments changed hands in 2004. The contract was awarded to the Immofinanz consortium, which had offered 961 million euros for the package.

CA Immo, on the other hand, ran out of vacancies, offering just a touch less for the properties, namely 960 million euros. According to the indictment, the successful consortium is said to have received a tip from Grasser about how much the competitors had bid. For this inside knowledge, the former finance minister and three cronies are said to have received 9.6 million euros, i.e. one percent of the transaction amount.

The payment to Grasser allegedly went through the now famous account 40.0815. Officially it belongs to the lobbyist Walter Meischberger; the prosecutors want to have found evidence that “Meischi” acted as Grasser’s front man.

Austria has fed on the fate of the fallen finance minister; the media in particular were sometimes hostile to him. For many contemporaries, the former politician still seems to be a provocation.

As a young man, Grasser once rose as quickly as today’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz later. At the age of only 25 he became Deputy Governor of Carinthia in 1994, and between 2000 and 2007 he held the office of Finance Minister under Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. Schüssel thought a lot of the brisk young politician; he had devoted himself entirely to the goal of a balanced budget, although it is disputed whether as a minister he achieved more than mere budget cosmetics.

But while Kurz enjoys a certain amount of admiration and is considered a natural political talent, Grasser always met with envy and resentment. Some considered the young finance minister’s demeanor to be brisk and know-it-all. Even his early sponsor, the FPÖ President Jörg Haider, is said to have run over the mouth. Others accused the handsome young politician of vanity.

Most of all Grasser offended politicians and journalists with his penchant for glamor. In 2005 he married Fiona Swarovski, a member of the extensive family of owners of the crystal glass manufacturer of the same name. For the former Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, Grasser was from then on the “swimming trunks finance minister of the fun society”.

The critics seem to forget how much Grasser is a product of Austria’s political culture. Whether true or false – there are innumerable stories that show Grasser as a master of the “friendship economy” and at least arouse doubts about his conduct in money matters.

Grasser gives the judiciary bad testimony

Today Grasser looks worn down by the long process. The procedure was the biggest conceivable turning point in his life, he said in an interview. But it would be unfair to accuse Grasser of being sorry for himself. Because the way the trial against him went, he gave Austria’s judiciary a bad report. According to Hubert Hinterhofer, professor of criminal law at the University of Salzburg, the procedure was extremely questionable under the rule of law and caused collateral damage.

Years of investigation have robbed Grasser of the chance to pursue a professional career in his prime. And as wealthy as Grasser was once, the trial has at least partially consumed his fortune. A year ago he said the process had cost him € 2.5 million so far.

In order to cover the expenses, the ex-minister had to sell an apartment on Vienna’s Ringstrasse and a property on Lake Wörthersee. Today he lives in the Tyrolean resort of Kitzbühel. From there he traveled to Vienna on Sunday or Monday to take part in the negotiations.

At least Austria has learned lessons from the questionable process, because there is now a kind of “Lex Grasser”. In principle, investigations have only been allowed to last three years since 2014. If the prosecutors want to conduct a longer investigation, they have to give reasons.

In contrast, nothing has changed in terms of the risk of a trial ruining the accused. Even in the event of an acquittal, they are largely left with the cost of their defense.

Grasser, too, will receive at most a flat rate reimbursement: he himself spoke of a few thousand euros, legal experts estimate the sum slightly higher. In any case, it will be negligibly small compared to the expenses. According to Grasser, he would suffer “a total economic loss”. The fifth act of Grasser’s drama will be performed on one of the coming Fridays. Judge Hohenecker will then decide whether there will be a disaster for Grasser.

More: The real estate company CA Immo is demanding almost two billion euros in damages from Austria.

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