Monday, November 9, 2009

SS trial halted over prosecutor's statements

News, Opinion and Background - Thursday 29 October 2009

Published: 28 October 2009 16:51 | Changed: 28 October 2009 17:16
By Bart Funnekotter in Aachen

The trial of the Dutch SS officer Heinrich Broere (88) in the western German city of Aachen was adjourned on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Broere, who is standing trial for killing three Dutch civilians during World War II, challenged the prosecutor on statements he made in the Dutch and German press.
The defence argued that state prosecutor Ulrich Maass is not out to "find the truth" but to get Broere convicted. "According to the law, the prosecutor has to be open to exculpatory evidence," lawyer Gordon Christiansen said at the beginning of what is one of the last World War II trials. Christiansen urged Maass' superiors to remove him from the case. He deemed the prosecution's proposal to have Maass' assistant Andreas Brendel read the opening statements unacceptable.
This left the presiding judge no option but to adjourn the trial, until next Monday, to give the prosecution time to come up with an answer to the accusation. "I assume I can resume the case on Monday," Maass said after the court's decision. "It is a simple legal fact that I cannot prosecute unless I am convinced it will lead to a conviction."
The adjournment ing was a great disappointment for Teun de Groot junior, who travelled to Aachen from the Netherlands to give a statement to the court against the man who killed his father, Teun de Groot senior. That co-plaintiff's statement will now be read by his attorney as soon as the case resumes.
De Groot did get a chance to see the man who murdered his father in September 1944 for the first time. "A pathetic little man," De Groot called Broere, who attended the trial in a wheelchair and was accompanied by two physicians.
Broere, a son of a Dutch father and a German mother, was part of a secret commando unit that killed over 50 Dutch people for resistance attacks on collaborators in 1943 and 1944. He is on trial 65 years later for his part in the killings, known as the Silbertanne-Aktion.
The prosecution does not have to prove he killed Teun de Groot, Fritz Bicknesse and Frans Kusters - Broere has admitted to doing so on several occasions - but that the killings were heimt├╝ckisch (heinous). If not, the statute of limitations on them has expired.
In the 1980s German investigators concluded the murders were a legitimate retaliation, under martial law, for attacks by the Dutch resistance. Maass, or his replacement, will try to prove otherwise.
The fact the executions took place in secret runs contrary to this theory. Teun de Groot jr.'s lawyer Detlev Hartmann meanwhile intends to prove the war started by Germany was criminal and therefore excluded from martial law. "That makes the whole defence obsolete that the Silbertanne murders were legal retaliations."


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