Monday, November 26, 2012

The Gustl Mollath Scandal

A week ago I wrote about the fascinating case of Gustl Mollath, the man sitting in a psychiatric clinic in Bayreuth claiming he was railroaded by the Bavarian justice system.   Since then I’ve been trying to find a way to establish a neutral position and to understand what might be going on with the justice system in the German state of Bavaria.  It has all the makings of a major scandal, yet for reasons I can’t explain, nobody outside Germany seems to have picked up the story.  All links to references are in German, unfortunately, but I trust anybody who would like to poke around in the details can make good use of the Google translator. Translations are mine and I welcome corrections if they are needed.

Just to review the he says/she says part of the story, Bavarian Minister of Justice, Beate Merk, tells the tale this way.  Petra Mollath, of Nuremberg, takes her husband Gustl to court charging that he beat her and tried to choke her to death.  The judge, Otto Bixner, decides Gustl is delusional because he keeps ranting about some money laundering scheme, so instead of jailing him for wife-beating Bixner sends Gustl Mollath to a psychiatric clinic in Bayreuth.  A judgment call.   All on the up and up.

Not so, says Gustl.  First, I never beat my wife.  She made that up.  Second, I was never delusional.  What I said about the money laundering and tax evasion was all true.

Now if you were raised with Perry Mason and hundreds of films and documentaries about court trials, as I was, what happens next will strike you as something out of fantasy land.  The judge, all on his own, decides to lock Mollath up in a psychiatric clinic, without a single audible peep out of anybody, apparently.   I have to admit I am unfamiliar with German justice, but didn't Mollath have a lawyer?  Were there no investigations into Mollath's claims?

Apparently not.   Now move ahead six years to 2011.  Apparently out of nowhere, the Nuremberg Hypo-Vereinsbank where Petra worked suddenly reveals that, although the police never investigated Mollath’s charges of banking chicanery, the bank did do an internal investigation.  Furthermore, they found he was telling the truth, and fired her and a colleague she was working with.  A third colleague resigned.  The bank filed the report somewhere, but never apparently shared it with the police, because they saw no reason to. 

Now tell me this story doesn't have stink written all over it.  How could anybody believe the bank would fire a couple of its employees for breaking the law on money laundering and not call the cops.  Wouldn't this scream for an investigation into whether somebody else at the bank was involved in the scheme, and whether the clients Petra Mollath was working for didn't maybe step in and shut down further investigation?

It remains to be seen whether the stink is coming from separate sources, or whether they are all tied together.  Let's start with the judge who tried Mollath, Otto Bixner.  He’s now retired and still maintains he did everything by the book, a claim Merk backs him up on.  But this begs the question of what the book says.  Or should say.   How the hell does a judge get to put a private citizen in a mental institution without more to go on than his own view that the citizen is a raving lunatic?  Are there no expert witnesses in Germany?  No psychiatric evaluations that figure into such “sentencing”?   Does a judge really have that much p̶o̶w̶e̶r̶  discretion? 

Since Mollath was not charged with wife-beating, there is perhaps no point in belaboring the point that it was his word against hers.  But the judge should at least have asked for some evidence he attacked her, wouldn't you think?   Did she see a doctor?  Where there medical records?  Witnesses?  Nobody followed that up because the hospitalization sidetracked the criminal charges.  When asked to explain the hospitalization, Merk, to this day, says it was appropriate “because he was dangerous.”   But he had only Petra's word to go on, and she had apparently been heard to say that she knew she could claim he was crazy and "do him in."  

Now wait a minute.  He was hospitalized because he was delusional, not because he was dangerous.  Nobody pursued the question of danger, as far as I know.  And now it turns out the charges of paranoid delusion were false.  The judge never gave Mollath his fair day in court; he never checked his story.

I’m an American looking at a story of German justice.  It’s possible, since I’m going on news reports and not from personal investigation, that there is a whole lot of information out there that would lead me to conclude otherwise, but I haven’t found it.  I’m sitting here wondering what the hell is wrong with the German justice system that they haven’t snapped into action and let Mollath go.  Just the obvious evidence given in 2011 by the bank should have led to that.  Why is he still sitting in an institution?  And, perhaps the most serious question raised by this story, is there no oversight in Germany that would prevent indefinite incarceration on the basis of a single judge's opinion?

Another question that looms large is how come the people at the Clinic for Forensic Psychiatry in Bayreuth where Mollath is interned are not speaking out?  Do they think he belongs there?  Is it that they are speaking out and the authorities are ignoring their pleas?  Are they complicit in an unwarranted hospitalization?   Or are they persuaded Mollath was correctly diagnosed by Judge Bixner and that his continued open-ended hospitalization is justified?  I realize that these questions will give some people reason to think I’m inclined toward conspiracy theories, but a few clear answers from the right authorities would knock these questions right out of the water, it seems to me.

Here are some of the reasons I’m asking them:

1. First of all there is Gustl Mollath claiming he’s been falsely hospitalized.  And he’d like you to read that: imprisoned.

2. There are two charges pending against Beate Merk of obstruction of justice, false imprisonment and perversion of justice.  One of these was filed by the office of Rainer Schmid in Munich, and the other bythe “Arbeitsgruppe Recht und Psychiatriemissbrauch (Task Force for Legal and Psychiatric Abuse)” of Saxony, according to spokesperson Brigitte Schneider.   In a report to a Giessen (in the state of Hesse) newspaper the Task Force charged Merk with using the methods of the Stasi (The former East German Secret Police) to prosecute the case  and with lying to Parliament.  They are also urging Bavarian Minister-President (State Premier) Seehofer to fire her.  Further details are available at the site of the ARD, the German national broadcasting system, which broke the story.

3. The story is being carried with obvious sympathy for Mollath in a number of prominent German papers.  Here’s one in the Süddeutsche Zeitung titled “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” 

4. I’ve also found a petition for Mollath’s release with 701 signatures, several pro arguments and no contra arguments that was delivered to the Bavarian Parliament (Landtag) in December 30, 2011.  Lawyers associated with the case, according to the web page are Dr. F. Weinberger und R. Heindl, a retired judge.   (This may be irrelevant, but I also found a website which appears to be a blog by someone charging that this railroading into psychiatric institutions is not an isolated incident.)

This is the kind of information that leads one to ask questions about conspiracy theories, and I am in no position to assess the veracity of these claims, of course, but they are real questions, it seems to me, and should at least be addressed. The site’s owner, Rainer Hackman, makes some strong claims that the practice of false institutionalization as a means of disarming political or other opposition is widespread.  A curious twist in this tangent, irrelevant or not, is Hackman’s contextualizing of this process of institutionalizing one’s enemies in the field of ponerology, the “study of evil,” a field developed by Andrzej M. Lobaczewski.  Lobaczewski also developed the notion of pathocracy, rule by psychopaths.  Hackman, in short, places deprivation of liberty, as is charged in the case of Gustl Mollath, alongside other great evils covering the whole gamut from militant aggression, conquest and colonialism to other forms of oppression including not only genocide but ecological destruction, economic depredation and even domestic conflict. Child abuse, would be including, and bullying, but also all forms of waste and neglect.  You can see how easily one might spin this story into the end of the world.  All the more reason, it seems to me, to get clarification, and get it quickly.

5. To get back to possible evidence that Mollath has a case, there is the testimony by Wilhelm Schlötterer, a former Bavarian financial officer and a man with a reputation as a whistle blower.  Mollath, he insists, should be released immediately and Merk should be fired.   On May 3, 2011, Schlötterer gave a talk in connection with the publication of his book, Macht und Missbrauch: Franz Josef Strauß und seine Nachfolger (Power and Abuse: Franz Josef Strauss and his Successors) in which he used the Mollath case as an example of the abuse of judicial power.   He concluded:

We consider the institutionalization of Gustl Mollath in various forensic psychiatric clinics as illegal and completely out of proportion.  It constitutes a human rights violation which endangers all citizens subject to the laws of Bavarian justice.

Wilhelm Schlötterer’s presentation is available on YouTube.

6.  Merk insists charges against her are an “unprecedented attack on the Bavarian justice system.” And that she is being attacked not because she has done something wrong, but because her political enemies see an opportunity of piling on.  But if you look at what they are actually saying, they are giving reasons for calling for her dismissal – and they are calling not so much for her head as for clarification:  

First there were the “Free Voters.”  Then the Bavarian Pirate Party joined the fray, arguing that Merk gave false testimony to the Bavarian Parliament, thus discrediting herself and doing harm to Bavarian justice, a charge lodged by others, as well.   According to the Pirate Party website author, Patrick Linnert (who makes a point of declaring he is not speaking for the party),
 Whether any of the crimes have passed the statue of limitations is irrelevant.  Here it’s not just the entire justice system that has failed to do its duty, but all the experts, all the doctors and caretakers.  This scandal shows what can happen when a state is governed for fifty years by the same party.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find that among Mollath’s ex-wife’s customers are some big shots in the CSU.   We eagerly await further results.
In the article, worth reading in its entirety, Linnert says his purpose is “to give Mr. Mollath a chance at rehabilitation and to clarify the case completely."  He also maintains that "Ms. Merk’s resignation (is) absolutely essential.”   The commentary that follows is also enlightening, showing strong support for Linnert’s assertions.

7. Online news magazine Telepolis on November 23 published another story which raises questions about Beate Merk.   About three weeks ago, the “medical commissioner for human rights” in Bavaria, Maria Fick, filed a complaint against Beate Merk, charging abuse, urging a review of the case and demanding reparations.  Merk has yet to respond to the charges.     To make the story even more interesting,  Merk questioned Fick’s competence in a public session of the Bavarian State Parliament, despite the fact that Fick has twenty-two years of experience in private practice, plus ten working in a clinic, and was for four years vice president of the Bavarian State Medical Association, specializing in medical ethics.  

In an interview with a fairly aggressive ARD interviewer, Merk adamently insists she has done nothing wrong.   When the interviewer asks her to explain why the D.A.’s office never explored the charges Mollath made about phony bank accounts in Switzerland, Merk answers, “You’re mixing information from two sources.  The tax office can proceed without evidence of a crime being committed; the district attorney’s office cannot.”  This is not evidence, note, that Mollath was hospitalized with good reason.  It is evidence only that Merk played by the rules of the game.

Mollath’s case was reviewed by Dr. Leipziger, the clinic's chief doctor, but Fick found "discrepancies" in his findings and described them as “inconclusive,” raising the question how it is Mollath could have been institutionalized on the basis of such findings – to say nothing of his being held there indefinitely.  In the ARD interview, Merk refuses to address the evidence of Mollath’s paranoia, arguing that the D.A. acted on the basis of information available to it at the time.   The interviewer presses her, “If he was institutionalized on the basis of paranoia over taxes, how is it the taxes were not part of the investigation?”  Merk answers that he was institutionalized on the basis of his attack on his wife – because he was dangerous, in other words, not because he was paranoid.  She does not explain how people who are "dangerous but not paranoid" end up in psychiatric institutions, and not simply jails.

The interviewer persists.  In 2007 a separate evaluator of Mollath’s mental state reports no evidence of paranoia.  How is it, the interviewer wants to know, that Merk left that information out in her report to Parliament.  Merk repeats that it is not her job to comment on the decision made by the judge in the original case.

The entire interview is available here and is worth watching, if only to see a tough interviewer in action.  Whether Merk’s insistence that she is being bombarded by questions she should not be expected to answer (arguably that she is being bullied by a reporter) is a separate question.  The interview comes to an end because she finally decides she has had enough.  The interviewer asks, “Just one more general question.”  Merk responds, “No.  I’m done.”

The tide seems to have turned.  New reports come in daily suggesting there is something really rotten in the Bavarian Justice System.   Today’s papers are carrying the ongoing story.  For samples, see here, here, here, and here.

I still find no mention of the case in the non-German press, but I suspect that is about to change.  This is definitely a story to follow.

For further, more detailed information, one place to start is the petition being sent round to free Mollath and bring about Merk’s resignation.  It includes links to both The ARD report, “Report Mainz” and a chronology of the case put out by the working group as well as
several other parts of the story.

photo credit


Alan McCornick said...

The story has finally hit outside of Germany. In the UK, at least. The Guardian published information about ongoing events yesterday:

Walter Keim said...

Here is an English comment:

Anonymous said...

Gustl Mollath is not the only case in germany. They murdered thousands with this method. But Straßbourg and Amnesty doesnt care.

Mollaths Shadow said...

You will find English material here

Mollaths Shadow said...

Here is another man killed by the German legal system: