It is with great sorrow and a heavy heart that we lost one of our board members to brain cancer. Lou Robinson passed away Wednesday at 10:40 pm.
HAGEN, Germany — Germany put a 92-year-old former member of the Nazi Waffen SS on trial Monday on charges that he killed a Dutch resistance fighter in 1944.
Dutch-born Siert Bruins, who is now German, entered the Hagen state courtroom using a walker, but appeared alert and attentive as the proceedings opened.
No pleas are made in the German system, and Bruins offered no statement. His attorney, Klaus-Peter Kniffka, said after the short 35-minute opening session that it was unlikely his client would ever address the court personally.
"I will probably deliver a defense declaration, but it depends upon the course of the trial," he told reporters.
The trial comes amid a new phase of German Nazi-era investigations, with federal prosecutors this week expected to announce they are recommending the pursuit of possible charges against about 40 former Auschwitz guards.
The renewed probes of death camp guards come after the case of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died last year while appealing his 2011 conviction for accessory to murder after allegations he served in Sobibor.
His case established that death camp guards could be convicted as accessories to murder, even if there was no specific evidence of atrocities against them.
Bruins, however, had long been on the radar of German legal authorities and already served time in the 1980s for his role in the wartime slaying of two Dutch Jews.
Bruins was also already convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in the Netherlands in 1949 in a case that involved the killing of the resistance fighter. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison, but attempts to extradite him were unsuccessful because he had obtained German citizenship through a policy instituted by Adolf Hitler to confer citizenship on foreigners who served the Nazi military.
Ulrich Sander, spokesman for an organization representing the victims of Nazi crimes, told the dpa news agency that the decision to bring Bruins to trial again, even at his advanced age, was a good one.
"We must make it clear for the future that such crimes are always prosecuted, that murderers never get away," he said.
Despite his age, Bruins was found medically fit to stand trial, though Kniffka said the stress of the proceedings against him has weakened him.
Trial sessions are being limited to a maximum of three hours in deference to his age and health.
Bruins volunteered for the Waffen SS, the combat arm of the Nazis' fanatical paramilitary organization, in 1941 after the Nazis conquered and occupied his homeland. He eventually rose to the rank of Unterscharfuehrer – roughly equivalent to sergeant.
He fought on the eastern front in Russia until 1943 when he became ill and no longer fit for combat duty.
Transferred back to the Netherlands, he served first in the Sicherheitsdienst – the Nazi internal intelligence agency – and then the Sicherheitspolizei, or Security Police, in a unit tasked to find resistance fighters and Jews.
As part of that unit, he is accused of killing resistance fighter Aldert Klaas Dijkema in September 1944 in the town of Appingedam, near the German border in the northern Netherlands.
If convicted, he faces a possible life sentence.
Dijkema was apprehended by the Nazis on Sept. 9, 1944, on suspicion he was involved in the Dutch resistance.
According to prosecutors, Bruins and alleged accomplice August Neuhaeuser, who has since died, drove Dijkema to an isolated industrial area where they stopped and told him to "go take a leak."
As he walked away from the car, they fired at least four shots into him, including into the back of his head, killing him instantly, according to the indictment.
Bruins and Neuhaeuser reported that Dijkema was shot while trying to escape.
Though it is not clear who fired the fatal shots, under German law if both suspects were there with the intent to kill, it does not matter who pulled the trigger, according to prosecutors.
The trial is scheduled until the end of September but it could be extended.
Testimony has concluded in the trial of Ft. Hood gunman Nidal Hasan and the 13 member panel of Army officers is expected to begin deciding today whether the man who murdered 13 people and wounded another 32 in a mass shooting at the post in November of 2009 should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
But one question that most Americans have is not what Hasan's sentence will be, but will he stop getting paid.
Amazingly, Hasan has continued to receive his full major's salary of about $72,000 a year, during the entire time he has sat in the Bell County Jail awaiting trial for opening fire on his fellow Army troops. Hasan has collected more than a quarter million dollars in pay since the November 5, 2009 massacre.
But Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army prosecutor and currently the head of the Center for Terrorism Studies at St. Mary's University, says the gravy train will end when the jury returns with its sentence.
"He will be stripped of all of his pay and allowances and will be stripped of his rank that same day," Addicott said.
Interestingly, when Hasan 'renounced' his allegiance to the U.S. Army and claimed that he had 'changed sides' and was now a 'soldier of Islam,' at no time did he 'renounce' the pay he continued to receive from the taxpayers of the country he claimed to be 'at war with.'
Military law experts say the bottom line is that Hasan is still an active duty member of the United States Army, and that means by law, he is entitles to receive his pay. As an officer of staff rank, junior officers and enlisted personnel are technically required to salute Hasan, but that has been suspended during his incarceration and trial.
Addicott says the sentence, whether it is a life sentence or execution, will almost certainly include reduction in rank, and a dishonorable discharge, as well as, in military terms, 'loss of all pay and allowances.'
Addicott says, unlike civilian court, where a person can be allowed to stay out of prison and not serve his or her sentence until appeals are exhausted, the inevitable appeals will not affect Hasan.
"His sentence starts immediately, the same day he is sentenced is when the sentence is carried out," he said. "His appeals will continue but they will not affect the imposition of his sentence."
Technically, Hasan will be returned to his unit to be formally stripped of his rank, pay, and status as an officer, but in this case, he is expected to be transferred directly from a special hospital jail cell in Belton where he has been held since about four months after the massacre to the prison where he will be confined, probably the 'Supermax' maximum security prison in Colorado.
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — A military court on Wednesday sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, giving the Army psychiatrist a path to the martyrdom he appeared to crave in the attack on unarmed fellow soldiers.
The American-born Muslim, who has said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, never denied being the gunman. In opening statements, he acknowledged to the jury that he pulled the trigger in a crowded waiting room where troops were getting final medical checkups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The same jurors who convicted Hasan last week had just two options: either agree unanimously that Hasan should die or watch the 42-year-old get an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.
Hasan could become the first American soldier executed in more than half a century. But because the military justice system requires a lengthy appeals process, years or even decades could pass before he is put to death.
The lead prosecutor assured jurors that Hasan would "never be a martyr" despite his attempt to tie the attack to religion.
"He is a criminal. He is a cold-blooded murderer," Col. Mike Mulligan said Wednesday in his final plea for a rare military death sentence. "This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society. This is the cost of his murderous rampage."
For nearly four years, the federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deny justice to the families of the dead and the survivors who had believed they were safe behind the gates of the Texas base.
And for just as long, Hasan has seemed content to go to the death chamber for his beliefs. He fired his own attorneys to represent himself, barely put up a defense during a three-week trial and made almost no effort to have his life spared.
Mulligan reminded the jury that Hasan was a trained doctor yet opened fire on defenseless comrades. He "only dealt death," the prosecutor said, so the only appropriate sentence is death.
He was never allowed to argue in front of the jury that the shooting was necessary to protect Islamic and Taliban leaders from American troops. During the trial, Hasan leaked documents to journalists that revealed him telling military mental health workers in 2010 that he could "still be a martyr" if executed.
When Hasan began shooting, the troops were standing in long lines to receive immunizations and doctors' clearance. Thirteen people were killed and more than were 30 wounded. All but one of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who curled on the floor and pleaded for her baby's life.
The attack ended only when Hasan was shot in the back by an officer responding to the shooting. Hasan is now paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair.
The military called nearly 90 witnesses at the trial and more during the sentencing phase. But Hasan rested his case without calling a single person to testify in his defense and made no closing argument. Even with his life at stake during the sentencing hearing, he made no attempt to question witnesses and gave no final statement to jurors.
Death sentences are rare in the military, which has just five other prisoners on death row. The cases trigger a long appeals process. And the president must give final authorization before any service member is executed. No American soldier has been executed since 1961.
Hasan spent weeks planning the Nov. 5, 2009, attack, including buying the handgun and videotaping a sales clerk showing him how to change the magazine.
He later plunked down $10 at a gun range outside Austin and asked for pointers on how to reload with speed and precision. An instructor said he told Hasan to practice while watching TV or sitting on his couch with the lights off.
When the time came, Hasan stuffed paper towels in the pockets of his cargo pants to muffle the rattling of extra ammo and avoid arousing suspicion. Soldiers testified that Hasan's rapid reloading made it all but impossible to stop him. Investigators recovered 146 shell casings in the medical building and dozens more outside, where Hasan shot at the backs of soldiers fleeing toward the parking lot.
In court, Hasan never played the role of an angry extremist. He didn't get agitated or raise his voice. He addressed the judge as "ma'am" and occasionally whispered "thank you" when prosecutors, in accordance with the rules of evidence, handed Hasan red pill bottles that rattled with bullet fragments removed from those who were shot.