On Thursday, the committee of inquiry into the series of right-wing extremist crimes in Neukölln, the so-called Neukölln complex, began its work – and was already confronted with the next problem. The debate has been simmering for some time as to whether Left-wing MP Ferat Kocak can be a deputy member of the committee, even though he himself is affected.

Now the lawyer for the main suspect, Tilo P., a neo-Nazi, Mirko Röder, has announced a possible lawsuit against Kocak’s involvement. Röder told the Tagesspiegel: “We are considering and examining a lawsuit before the Constitutional Court. The rights of the accused P. will be significantly impaired if MP Kocak appears in the trial with special knowledge from the investigative committee.”

Röder referred to the Investigative Committee Act, according to which a member of the committee may not be involved with the case under investigation. “I’m counting on the committee chairman seeing this problem and finding a solution,” said Röder. The RBB had previously reported.

CDU, FDP, but also SPD and Greens had previously pointed out the problem to the left-wing faction. On Thursday, however, the parties were conciliatory. “Ferat Kocak is an elected member, from our point of view deputy membership is not a problem,” said Left MP Niklas Schrader, who is also a member of the committee.

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The CDU MP Stephan Standfuss said he found the constellation “unfortunate” because it could possibly call into question the neutrality of the committee. However, Kocak is only a deputy, he does not see that as legally problematic.

The Greens also rated Kocak’s participation similarly. The Green MP André Schulze told the Tagesspiegel: “The nomination as a deputy member is first and foremost the decision of the left, which we respect and supported. Legally, we do not see here that his role as a person concerned constitutes a reason for exclusion. Politically, however, it is certainly advisable that he does not get involved as a member of the committee in those matters in which he is also affected as a person affected.”

Kocak himself sees no problem in his participation. “I find it catastrophic that the AfD – from whose ranks at least one suspected perpetrator of the attacks comes – should be part of the investigative committee and I, as the person affected, should not,” said Kocak. The committee of inquiry is about far more than his case, which represents only a fraction of the right-wing extremist series.

However, his case will probably only concern the committee marginally: As the committee chairman Florian Dörstelmann (SPD) explained, the committee will probably not have access to a large part of the files due to the parallel court proceedings in Kocak’s case.

The committee was first constituted on Thursday, and in the non-public part the representatives of the parties approved several motions for evidence. According to Tagesspiegel information, these relate in particular to those documents from the investigative authorities that have already been examined by the police’s internal investigation unit BAO Focus and the external commission of experts.

The next committee date is July 2, when further applications for evidence and witness summonses are to be decided. After the summer break, the committee will meet again from the beginning of September, when the interviews with those affected should begin.

The committee is to deal with right-wing extremist attacks in Neukölln since 2009. Police credit the series with at least 72 crimes between 2016 and 2019, including 23 arson attacks on cars.

Those affected themselves speak of at least 157 crimes since 2009. The victims were mostly people who fought against right-wing extremism or helped refugees – including today’s Left MP Kocak, whose car was set on fire in February 2018.

“I am not affected by the other crimes,” said Kocak. It was clear that he would not participate in his specific case in the committee either. “Of course I don’t want to endanger the committee,” Kocak said. “If the AfD retires, then I will retire too,” he announced.

[The author of this text, Madlen Haarbach, also writes the Lichtenberg newsletter. You can order it here free of charge: leute.tagesspiegel.de]

There had previously been discussions about the participation of the AfD, whose representative Antonin Brousek and his deputy Karsten Woldeit had only been elected to the committee for the third time. One of the main suspects, Tilo P., was a member of the district board of the Neukölln AfD at the time of some of the crimes.

In the case of the arson against Kocak’s car and the car of the bookseller Heinz Ostermann, which burned down the same night, the court admitted charges against the neo-Nazis Tilo P. and Sebastian T. a week ago. The process is scheduled to start at the end of August.