German bosses in court over rifle exports
Six former employees of German gunmaker Heckler & Koch have gone on trial in Stuttgart, accused of illegally shipping guns to the Mexican drugs war.
The prosecution accused the defendants of delivering almost 4,500 assault rifles, ammunition and ancillaries to Mexico from 2006 to 2009.
Prosecutor Karlheinz Erkert told the court that the defendants knew the G-36 rifles, worth about €4.1 million, should not have been exported, but that they hoped for “not inconsiderable sources of income”.
The defence said the firearms were delivered to the Mexican authorities who then sold them within the violent country.
Human rights groups say firearms delivered to Mexico regularly reach drug cartels.
The charges say 4,500 G36 assault rifles and smaller firearms were sent in 16 batches to violent states covered by a German arms export ban, the War Weapons Control Act and Foreign Trade Act.
The defence has reportedly claimed the firearms went legally to the Mexican police.
The G36 is one of the world’s most widely used assault rifles and H&K firearms, made in the south-western town of Oberndorf, are used in numerous conflict zones, including Pakistan, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.
Veteran anti-arms trade activist Jürgen Grässlin presented evidence eight years ago which triggered the case.
“Just six people are sitting in the dock, that’s a scandal,” Grässlin told the media. “The chain of responsibility, from the weapons production to the export to their delivery to conflict zones is a long chain of legality. And 30 or 40 people should be in the dock, including the government export-control authorities.”
Two former H&K managers are among those in court, and one of the six, a former marketing agent, is in Mexico in poor health. The defendant, Markus B, who lives in Mexico City, is forbidden from taking long-haul flights.
Judge Frank Maurer decided to separate his trial but, as a Mexican citizen, it is unlikely that Markus B will ever attend a German court.
German broadcasters SWR and BR reported that G36 rifles were used in the militia attack on Mexican students in Iguala in 2014, where six students died and 43 were kidnapped and 42 of the 43 disappeared without trace.
Mexican rights activists believe the police turned the students over to the mafia-style Guerreros Unidos, who murdered them and disposed of the corpses. Only the remains of one student have been conclusively identified.
Iguala families. Picture credit: Flickr