Green Vault: Memory gaps in court – Panorama

The ritual always works the same. Time after time, the presiding judge, Andreas Ziegel, dictated a catalog of questions to the defense attorneys in the trial of the spectacular theft of jewels in the Green Vault. The hearing is interrupted, all the accused from the extended R. family in Berlin are handcuffed and judicial officers lead them out of the high-security courtroom of the Dresden Higher Regional Court. The defense attorney and the client meet in a safe space, after which everyone returns. The answers are read out, but the findings remain manageable.

It’s been like this for weeks, the procedure repeats itself four or five times a day. When the judge is finished, the public prosecutor’s catalog of questions comes up. Often the memory of the accused is clouded or only confirms already known confessions. The most common statement is that the client will not provide any information because this is “potentially incriminating for third parties” – that is to say: the actual masterminds of the spectacular thieves’ raid through the Green Vault have not been charged at all in Dresden. That would be possible, but how credible would it be?

After parts of the loot were returned shortly before Christmas, the prosecution, defense and court made a deal. In the case of credible confessions and the willingness to answer questions from judges and prosecutors, comparatively mild sentences of between four and a half to six years and nine months beckon. Third parties do not have to be charged. Four defendants accepted the deal, a fifth only claims to have been involved in the preparation, and the sixth has provided an alibi for the night of the crime in November 2019.

The defense attorneys now present the court with details and the personal circumstances of their clients, which are intended to replace the image of a targeted and unscrupulous squad of thieves with a narrative with slightly scatterbrained secondary characters who explain what two strangers are said to have instructed them to do. On Friday, Wissam R.’s defense attorneys – who has already been convicted of stealing gold coins from Berlin’s Bode Museum – reported that during a reconnaissance visit to the Green Vault he asked a security guard in the Hall of Treasures: “Are all the stones genuine?” He answered “yes” and said to him, looking at a showcase: “These are the most expensive.” Exactly this showcase was cleared out later. After the coup in the Bode Museum, he “became megalomaniac”, he took part in the thieves through the Green Vault because he needed money for his cocaine consumption. He is then described in detail in another statement: “I lived for the night, I was only interested in partying.” At some point it was normal to take a line of cocaine first thing in the morning, “I felt immortal”. In some cases he consumed up to two grams of cocaine a day, as well as tablets, cannabis to calm down and alcohol.

From the answers given by Rabieh R.’s defense attorneys, we learn that after the burglary he claims to have gone to his parents’ apartment in order to go to school from there. On the return trip from Dresden to Berlin, there were six people in a Mercedes disguised as a taxi, “it was extremely cramped.” Nobody wants to know how the gun got into one of the two getaway vehicles. The accused would not have benefited from the loot. Bashir R. had his lawyers explain that although he had hoped for a share, he had not been promised anything specific. Only that he will be satisfied. No defendant commented on the whereabouts of the missing diamonds, nor on the question of who decided on the return and who the two masterminds should be, who repeatedly appeared as “X and Y” in the answers.

The public prosecutor’s office is not convinced by all of this: “We already had doubts about the credibility of the confessions, the meager yield of the interrogations did not change that,” said senior public prosecutor Matthias Allmang on Friday. Numerous questions remained unanswered, always “when they can be objectively verified”. The questioning turned out to be a black box, one could not question the answers critically, this contradicted the code of criminal procedure. In addition, statements were “obviously made appropriate”, which shakes the credibility in its entirety. The prosecution therefore requested the hearing of further witnesses. If serious doubts about the statements of the defendants arise, the deal could still burst. An imminent verdict is thus again a long way off.

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