Fictional victim in the NSU trial: Why attorney Ralph Willms was acquitted

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Ralph Willms’ body shakes. The lawyer hides his face, but you can still see the relief. When the court speaks the decisive words shortly after 12 noon, his upper body is shaken by silent sobs. “The following verdict is issued in the name of the people: The accused is acquitted.”
According to the conviction of the 9th Large Criminal Chamber of the Aachen Regional Court, it was not lawyer Willms who came up with a victim of the nail bomb attack in Cologne’s Keupstrasse for the NSU trial. The court was convinced that it was Atilla Ö., A real victim of the Keupstrasse attack. He alone invented the woman named Meral Keskin. Atilla Ö. has been dead since September 2017.

Willms, the 53-year-old lawyer from Eschweiler today, represented the phantom of the secondary prosecution for two and a half years and for more than 230 days in the NSU trial before the Munich Higher Regional Court. The Chamber of the Regional Court of Aachen states that the defendant has violated almost every legal duty, which is why Willms threatens to lose his license to practice as a lawyer. But this decision is not a criminal court, but the Higher Lawyers’ Court.

It is »unquestionable«, says presiding judge Melanie Theiner, that the lawyer made »big mistakes« and acted »grossly negligent«. But that is not enough for a conviction for fraud. The law does not recognize negligent fraud. “In other words: negligent fraud is not punishable.”

He also referred his mother as a client

In order to convict someone of fraud, the chamber must be convinced that the accused acted willfully, at least with conditional intent. However, the judges are not convinced that Willms has deliberately cheated or even accepted that his client does not exist.

According to the court, Atilla Ö. brought two false victims into the NSU trial as co-plaintiffs: his mother and her alleged friend, Meral Keskin. Atilla Ö. knew from personal experience that the federal government pays the victims of the NSU 5,000 euros each. And he knew that there are lawyers who are very interested in participating in this “trial of the century”. Atilla Ö. is said to have promised money for the mediation of mandates.

He placed his mother as a client for an elderly lawyer from Cologne, even though the Chamber was convinced that she was not a victim of the NSU attack. The mother, who has also died in the meantime, was a joint plaintiff in the NSU trial for seven days. When two lawyers bitterly quarreled about their mandate, Atilla Ö’s lawyers took care of it. for the mother withdrawing her motion for an accessory prosecution. Meral Keskin remained a joint plaintiff. It was not until October 2015 that the fraud was revealed through a SPIEGEL research.

Willms applied for and received 25 advance payments between 2013 and 2015 for his phantom activity. A total of 211,252.54 euros in fees, expenses and travel expenses. Willms has to pay the money back. Even the acquittal does not change that. He stutters the amount in installments. He still owes the taxpayer around 140,000 euros.

Willms has also applied for 5,000 euros in compensation from the federal government’s victim fund for Meral Keskin. The responsible Federal Office of Justice paid him off. The public prosecutor’s office assessed both cases – application for admission to an accessory prosecution and application for compensation – as serious fraud in a single offense with forgery of documents. According to the prosecution, Willms knew that a medical certificate he submitted to prove Meral Keskin’s injuries was forged.

“Alarm bells shouldn’t have rung yet”

The Aachen Regional Court sees it differently. Willms have the information from Atilla Ö. “Blindly familiar”. For the question of fraud or not, only the point in time is relevant when Willms applied to the Munich Higher Regional Court on the one hand for admission of the secondary action and, on the other hand, three months later to the Federal Office of Justice for compensation. Did Willms have any doubts about Meral Keskin’s existence at this point in time? No, thinks the court. “Alarm bells shouldn’t have rung yet.”

The judge traces what happened. Willms received a call from a fellow lawyer in Cologne in April 2013. He was in contact with Atilla Ö. and wanted to represent his mother as a joint plaintiff in the process. The lawyer told Willms that there was another victim of the Keupstrasse attack, Meral Keskin. Willms met with Atilla Ö. and got, among other things, a forged certificate.

The court found that the false certificate was so obviously falsified that it spoke against the accused. However, this incriminating evidence is “neutralized” by the fact that Willms was offered the Keskin mandate from a lawyer colleague. In the opinion of the court, Willms apparently did not have to come up with the idea that this lawyer was offering him a fake mandate. Willms doesn’t want to have looked at the wrong certificate properly. The Chamber does that for him too. In any case, she assumes that the lawyer has never read the NSU files. Otherwise, he might have noticed that the name Meral Keskin was nowhere to be found.

However, the court does not see the defendant alone as failing. “Not only Mr. Willms did not do his job.” The Senate of the Munich Higher Regional Court, chaired by Manfred Götzl, the Cologne public prosecutor, the Federal Office of Justice and the Aachen public prosecutor had failed.

  • “The Munich Higher Regional Court had everything in mind”: the false certificate, the contradictions, the inconsistencies. Nevertheless, the Senate allowed itself to be duped for years.

  • The Cologne public prosecutor’s office against Atilla Ö. found out for fraud, should have realized at some point that his mother was not a victim of the Keupstrasse attack either.

  • The Federal Office of Justice had “at least hesitated”, but then paid the 5,000 euros compensation to a phantom – for fear that Meral Keskin, if it did exist, would turn to the media and complain about the refusal of compensation.

“Ultimately, no authority saw any reason to ask the accused what the certificate or the deviating descriptions were all about,” the presiding judge stated.

The chamber also acquitted the defendant of the allegation of attempted fraud in connection with the Loveparade proceedings. Willms had applied for admission as a joint plaintiff for a young man at the Duisburg Regional Court. According to the prosecution, the man was not a victim of the Love Parade disaster of 2010. In the end, Willms had withdrawn his application for assignment, which is why he was only charged with attempted fraud. But the court sees no fraud at all, not even attempted one. It is not at all clear that the young man was not injured at the time. “And if that is not certain, then it is not attempted fraud.”

The chamber was also unable to determine that the defendant had passed on another Loveparade mandate to a lawyer from Cologne without the consent of his client. The court assumes that Willms thought the woman was okay with this. “And if he thinks everything is okay, then that is not a fraud.” Because then, in this case too, there is no resolution.

The verdict is not yet legally binding. The public prosecutor had demanded a total sentence of two years on probation for Willms and a two-year professional ban in the field of criminal law. You can appeal against the judgment.
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