An ex-teacher of the sect is sentenced for dangerous bodily harm. The court sees evidence of the violent practices.
Trial as advertising platform: supporters of the defendant in front of the district court in Nordlingen. Photo: dpa
At first glance, one thinks of a school trip. But there is another reason why so many young people are sitting as spectators in Room E of the Nordlingen District Court on this November morning: They belong to the "Twelve Tribes," a controversial Christian fundamentalist denomination that propagates violence as an educational measure.
The youths wear green dungarees, flowered shirts and homespun sweaters, their hair tousled, their cheeks red. Their adult co-religionists have tousled beards, just like the 54-year-old Klaus H., who has now been found guilty.
The court considers it proven that the former teacher H. beat his then 14-year-old student Christian R. nine years ago. For this, H. is sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of 2,000 euros.
H. is said to have picked a "willow or hazelnut rod" in the bushes before the crime and cut it to size in order to beat the boy "with strong force on the buttocks clad in underpants at least five times for reasons that cannot be explained at a mill in Klosterzimmern," is how the judge justifies the sentence.
The "Twelve Tribes" like to stage themselves as a persecuted religious group
Earlier, H.’s defense counsel had tried to discredit R.: "Whoever is touring through talk shows all the time should then also make his knowledge known here." The judge described R. R.’s lack of recollection, for example, on the grounds that it was more difficult to remember if one was beaten more often than if it had happened only once.
The judge also gave him credit for his lack of "zeal" as a witness, for example when he only vaguely described the intensity of the blows. After all, he could also have said that "H. had gone full steam ahead if he had wanted a conviction," the judge said.
The "Twelve Tribes" like to present themselves as a persecuted religious group. Especially because custody proceedings are currently still ongoing after police seized some 40 children from "Twelve Tribes" families in Bavaria in September 2013. During a parade in Nordlingen in May, supporters ran along with a banner that placed Nordlingen District Court Director Helmut Beyschlag in the vicinity of the persecution of Jews. Beyschlag filed a complaint.
This time, too, the sect uses the trial as an advertising platform. After the verdict, members hoist a banner in front of the district court: "We Twelve Tribes leave Germany," it says. A large part of the group has emigrated to the Czech Republic or intends to do so.
At the end, a trombone choir of the sect intones "Power up the door". It says: "Praised be my God, my Creator rich in counsel. He is just, worthy of help. Meekness is his vehicle." The religious zealots do not seem to take to heart what they are singing.