Because of a legal advice from the court, the defense asked for a respite – and got it. The pleadings won’t be held for a week.
FRANKFURT/MAIN taz | Everyone was prepared. The main defendant Stephan E.’s plea in the trial for the murder of Walter Lübcke was to take place on Thursday, the penultimate stage before the judgment. But nothing came of it: Because of a legal advice from the court, the defense asked for a delay – and got it. Now the judgment has also been postponed, from January 26th to January 28th.
In the morning, the criminal division of the Frankfurt / Main Higher Regional Court had withdrawn for an hour for a consultation. Then judge Thomas Sagebiel gave the defendant Stephan E. the legal notice that in the event of a judgment against him, preventive detention could also be issued with reservations. This means that preventive detention, which would follow a life imprisonment, could not be imposed until the prison term.
The notice was actually a formality. A life imprisonment for the murder of Walter Lübcke on June 1, 2019 was already in the room for Stephan E.: His DNA was found at the crime scene. He also confessed to the act and justified it with hatred of Lübcke, because he had criticized opponents of a refugee accommodation at a citizens’ meeting. The federal prosecutor’s office had recently demanded life imprisonment including preventive detention for E. because of the murder.
Conviction for knife attack too?
The court’s tip could also mean that Stephan E. will be convicted of another act in addition to the murder of Walter Lübcke: a knife attack on the Iraqi refugee Ahmed I. in January 2016. This act is also indicted in the trial. Unlike the Lübcke murder, Stephan E. denies this act and the evidence is not entirely clear. A conviction of E. for this was previously considered uncertain.
As a rule, preventive detention is only imposed if the person concerned has committed several serious crimes and further crimes are to be feared. With the knife attack and the murder of Lübcke this would be the case. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office also wants Stephan E. to be convicted for the attack on Ahmed I.
However, the fact that the court only announces a “conditional” preventive detention could mean that Stephan E. will ultimately not be convicted of the knife attack. Sagebiel had previously announced that his Senate is “critical” of this charge.
Mustafa Kaplan, Stephan E.’s defense attorney, asked for a longer consultation time after the legal notice in order to possibly rework his plea. He criticized the fact that the notice was given “a few minutes” before his final lecture. And the court gave Kaplan a generous time to think it over: the plea was canceled and postponed for a whole week to January 21, the day of the trial ended after that.
This also shifts the rest of the program in the process. The co-defendant Markus H. is now to plead on January 26th. The verdict is due two days later. Some trial participants criticized the postponement: It would have been enough to give Stephan E.’s defense a longer consultation time on Thursday – and to start the plea in the afternoon. A spokesman for the Lübcke family called the delay a burden for relatives.
Alleged accomplices could get away with it
For the co-defendant Markus H., also a neo-Nazi, the day was a hint. The federal prosecutor had demanded a prison sentence of nine years and eight months for him because he had provided psychological aid to the murder: with joint shooting training and visits to right-wing demonstrations, he had encouraged Stephan E. in his murder plan. In his plea, the lawyer for the Lübcke family demanded that Markus H. be convicted as an accomplice for the murder: A number of indications suggest that he – as Stephan E. last claimed – was at the scene.
However, the court would also have to announce a conviction as an accomplice with a legal notice, since this differs from the indictment. The Lübcke lawyer Holger Matt also requested this information. But here the Senate remained silent on Thursday. The judges do not seem to see Markus H. as an accomplice at the moment.
The 44-year-old could get away lightly in the end: The court had already released Markus H. from custody in October 2020 and announced that against him – because of the contradicting statements by Stephan E. – there was no longer even an urgent suspicion of a crime Assistance in murder exists.