On the second day of the trial, there was noticeably less press, the only two spectators didn’t come back from their lunch break and the one person to remain was the defendant’s own mother. Only one witness testified, but he needed a long time to do so: The main case officer, Mr. D’Aascanio, spent several hours answering questions about the weapons seized from defendant Fabian D., a suspected member of the far-right terror group Feuerkrieg Division (FKD). The chat history of the group was also a point of discussion. Detailing the defendant’s arsenal was no easy task: His confiscated collection of weapons includes several knives, tools, three blank pistols, two air rifles, the original housing of a machine gun and other parts that could have been used to build a functional weapon.
Fabian D. had a harmless but highly implausible explanation for this arsenal at the ready: During his interrogations with the police and when speaking with his defence attorneys, he claimed he acquired these items with the intention of becoming a member of a rifle club. He was interested in “survival”. The investigators found nothing indicating he ever inquired about rifle clubs on his hard drive or smartphone. Traces of outdoor activities were also not found. Instead, the defendant commented in a chat belonging to the “Feuerkrieg Division” on which parts are needed to build a weapon and which are legally available. The other parts could be “obtained from friends”. However, the defendant also pointed out in the chat that the use of original parts and the correct pressurisation is important. His supposed interest in survival and outdoor activities, his research skills and his computer knowledge would have made him an ideal candidate for the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, if you believe their recruitment campaigns at least. After his arrest, the defendant was happy to open an acceptance letter from the Bundeswehr, the court heard, not seeming to realise that nothing will ever come of his army career now.
Letting off steam
In general, members of the Feuerkrieg Division chat viewed the defendant as their IT expert. The suggestion to switch from the platform “wire” rather to the more secure platform “riot” came from him. Although it cannot be proven the defendant held a leadership role in the group, he was very active with few breaks and cultivated “a relationship of trust towards an informal leadership”. His extreme far-right statements were just as radical as other fascist and misogynistic statements made within the group. The group often discussed the Halle, Christchurch, and Bridgeville shooters. They were seen as “saints” by the FKD, and the locations of their attacks were the group’s holy ground. Their glorification came also amid criticism of some “laughable mistakes”. “I would love to beat the shit out of him” was the defendant’s answer to the mistakes of the Halle shooter, who failed to gain access to a synagogue he planned to attack. This comes in stark contrast to his mother’s description of the defendant as someone who would avoid the slightest argument. For these kinds of statement, the group celebrated him and gave him recognition. Mr. D’Ascanio, the main case officer, stated that Fabian D. built for himself an uncanny profile to emerge as a serious and strong authority figure within the FKD.
However, this is only one side of the coin. The image of a socially isolated, introverted and insecure person also comes across in the chat history. Disregarding their inhuman ideas and Nazi glorification, one cannot help but think that these are simply youths who have the same concerns as others in their age group. Women, for example, caught immense attention from the group, with omnipresent misogyny. Some members took up the mantle of “incels”, men who involuntarily remain celibate. The defendant wrote on women: “Anyone who does not have two children by 35 should be hanged in public as a traitor”. However, it quickly becomes evident that frustration and dissatisfaction with themselves and their bodies lurk behind this misogynous world view. Fabian’s low self-esteem occasionally shined through in the chats in his requests for tips on nutrition and fat loss. The outlet for this group’s fears and feelings of insecurity was then an inhuman hatred of marginalised groups.
Search for recognition
During the trial, a picture of Fabian D. solidified – that of a quiet, emotionless loner, lacking interest in family or social contacts and seeming almost completely apathetic. All the witnesses, as well as the psychological and psychiatric experts, confirmed these qualities. The psychiatric expert’s report felt like a never-ending story, but one that the remaining audience followed attentively and eagerly. He had little good to say about Fabian D., even less about his parents. Without any emotion, the accused listened, his gaze rigidly directed forward. His mother was also present and listened to the detailing of her own son’s biography. Even as a child, abnormalities in his development and social competence were apparent, which would have necessitated therapy even at that young age. However, there is no reference to any such therapies in the accused’s medical file, according to the psychiatric expert. The abnormalities, which Fabian D. already displayed as a child, worsened in puberty due to bullying, a lack of friends and disappointing experiences with women. He kept his family and social environment at a distance and instead sought recognition elsewhere, first through computer games and finally through the chats of a far-right terror group.
The psychiatrist diagnosed the defendant with an autism spectrum disorder, attributable to his multiple behavioural and personality disorders. However, he further stated that he increasingly must make this “fashionable diagnosis” because of its breadth and because many disorders can fall within the spectrum. However, he also made it clear that Fabian D. possesses neither a below-average IQ nor diminished cognitive skills and has not suffered from depression, schizophrenia or “delusions” in the past two years. The defendant is sane and was fully aware of his criminal actions. A few days before his arrest, Fabian advised in the chat that the others should not be surprised if the police “gets him”, because it could occur soon.
Whether he had information about an impending arrest is doubtful, but the police cannot say for sure. His care and caution indicate that he knew he could be charged. He hid SD cards and a hard drive behind a cupboard and in the cooker hood, he had his deliveries sent to his grandmother or to a post office box, and he conducted intensive research on weapon laws. When asked by the judge whether the defendant poses a danger, the psychiatrist answered that in Fabian D.’s case he definitely sees the potential for a “lower effort but high damage” type of attack. The low inhibition threshold and the possibility of receiving positive attention so quickly in the digital world represent a highly dangerous mixture. With this expert opinion, the second day of the trial ended.
The danger posed by Fabian D., expressed by the psychiatric expert, clearly remained in the mind of the public prosecutor during his recommended sentencing the next day, November 27, 2020. He argued in favour of four years of prison and further monitoring of the accused to counteract his further radicalisation. The glorification of other mass shooters and the amount of energy put into the procurement of weapons proved that Fabian D. had considered how best he could harm others, said the public prosecutor. His personality and behaviour disturbances are no justification for such a radicalisation and the preparation of a crime which would threaten human lives.
Fabian D.’s defence attorney, who also happens to be the nephew of the weapons seller in Cham who sold some weapons to the defendant, however, asked for an acquittal. He reasoned that all the weapons and tools the accused owned were legal, although some of them were not registered with the district office. His radicalisation was due to his diagnosed personality and behavioural disorders, which he owed to his difficult childhood. The assessments of the psychological and psychiatric experts remained unmentioned. Fabian D. did not make any statements of his own during the entire trial. Only when the judge asked him if he was willing to undergo therapy, he answered: “Yes, but only as an outpatient”. The verdict will be announced on Friday, December 4, 2020.
Translated bs W.F. Thomas.