Brand series in Berlin: The fire, the suspicion - and the trust in the state

Ferat Kocak says he has been feeling guilty since the attack. The psychologist would advise not to phrase it that way, but "in principle, I put my parents in danger." Because he lived with them at the time of the attack and because the flames had jumped from his car to the garage and almost onto the gas pipe and the house next to it. If Ferat Kocak had woken up a bit later, his parents and he might not have made it outside.

"The fear has remained," says Kocak now, a year later, at a meeting in a southern New Zealand café. In addition, there is incomprehension: how can it be that the perpetrators still run around freely? This lack of understanding grows with every detail that Ferat Kocak learns about the case and the investigation.

The series of attacks on institutions and persons who are in Neukölln engage against right-wing extremists, now takes two and a half years. It meets politicians, trade unionists, teachers, booksellers. Several lives were endangered, the police suspected the perpetrators in the neo-Nazi scene. In the case of the attack on Ferat Kocak there are two suspects: the long-time Neuköllner NPD chairman Sebastian T. and the AfD politician Tilo P. The latter sat until Saturday in the district executive committee of his party. The AfD has now initiated a party exclusion against Tilo P. Reason are P.s "contacts in the far-right milieu".

At the meeting in the café, Ferat Kocak says he has meanwhile moved away from Neukölln, stays overnight with friends, and swaps the apartments at irregular intervals, so that no systematics can be recognized. The police had advised him that. Kocak is 39, born in Kreuzberg, grew up in Neukölln. Works at a university, is involved in the pro-Kurdish HDP and ran for the left in the 2016 parliamentary elections. In the weeks following the attack, the police had repeatedly signaled to him that it could not be long before the perpetrators were convicted. The circumstantial situation is quite clear. Ferat Kocak says, "I have trusted the authorities for a long time."

The suspicion: Did you want to ensure justice yourself?

The police do not want to comment on the current status of the investigation. A process does not exist until today. Instead, another car was lit last week on Thursday night, just before the anniversary of the attack on Ferat Kocak, this time for suspected AFD politician Tilo P.

Near the crime scene, the police picked up a man. It turned out that years ago, as a freelancer, he worked for several foundations and associations that are committed against right-wing extremism, including the Federal Agency for Civic Education he wrote. Suspicion: Did anyone have the idea that he himself could provide justice and take revenge? For the Tagesspiegel the man is not to speak. Also Tilo P. does not want to comment.

It is only clear that the act has harmed the victims of the Neukölln fire series. "Apparently someone's blown the fuse," says Kocak. "We sufferers are even more afraid now, because of course there could be retaliatory attacks." Another victim of the series says: "This action endangers not only all the victims, but also our concern that is finally determined seriously against the right-wing perpetrators."

The AFD takes the opportunity to question the series of attacks in recent years: Could it not be that since 2016 all attacks have been staged only by leftists, so that they can present themselves as victims? On the district association's Facebook page, AfD supporters claim the suspects are hanged or shot dead. One writes that Germany finally needs a leader again.

The two right-wing extremists, who are the focus of the investigators, Kocak does not know personally. But he heard her voices. On tapes played by the police. On January 15, 2018, two weeks before the attack, Sebastian T. and Tilo P. were ambushed at night, followed him home and thus found his place of residence. Kocak was sitting that evening in the "Reuters 179", a café in the Fritz-Reuter-Allee near the subway station Britz-Süd. He wanted to found a local group of the left in southern Neukölln and was looking for fellow combatants. The last person who tried it gave up, exasperated, after someone had bitten him on the tires.

On the tapes, which were later played to Kocak, you can hear phone recordings of the two right. Tilo P. was obviously waiting in the dark parking lot across the street and gave Sebastian T. notice when Kocak left: "He's coming out now, he's running to the car …" Sebastian T. then followed Kocak six kilometers by car, several times they phoned on the way. At the end, T. called P. again and said, "I know where he lives now."

In order to clarify the series of arson attacks, the police has set up two investigation teams, the State Office of Criminal Investigation and the relevant section. An official says it is striking that the beginning of the series coincides with the end of a prison sentence that Sebastian T., the longtime Neukölln NPD chairman, had to serve.

AfD-man Tilo P. is said to have been in the scene in his early nineties. The protection of the Constitution explains that Tilo P. was "appearing in neo-Nazi contexts". However, observers are not surprised that he has been elected to the board of the Neukölln AfD: The district association is full of radicals. Some have contacts with Hertha BSC's far-right hooligan scene, others with their identities.

In the weeks following the attack, Ferat Kocak often could not sleep, then he put himself in the shower at night, the psychologist had recommended. He says he no longer trust strangers, often looks around. "This is a security mania, which is unfortunately deep inside me." Now in winter it's worse, because it gets dark early. In the light he is less afraid. His mother suffered shortly after the attack a heart attack, she also pursued the act to this day.

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