The Bonn lawyer Björn Seelbach has represented the 33-year-old stabber von Brokstedt in a number of civil and criminal proceedings since 2020. Even now he has taken over the mandate. In an interview with FOCUS online, the lawyer gives insights into the person and life of Ibrahim A..
FOCUS online: Mr. Seelbach, are there any indications as to why this act happened on a regional train?
Seelbach: I’m still wondering how something so terrible could have happened. So far I’ve only been able to speak to my client briefly. I’m still waiting for access to the files. Frustration about falling homeless again, excessive drug use or a mental illness may have played a role.
However, I rule out an Islamist motive. Ibrahim A had nothing to do with Islam. He never spoke to me about religion or politics. In the next few days I will visit my client in custody in Schleswig-Holstein to get a better picture of his motives. Much has already become known about his criminal past. Did the judiciary simply unleash a ticking time bomb on the public here?
Seelbach: No, certainly not. So far he has only been held in custody once, before that he did not have to serve a prison sentence. In January 2022, Ibrahim A. is said to have injured a man with a knife while serving food in a homeless organization in Hamburg. My client has denied the allegations, according to his own statement he acted in self-defense because his opponent first grabbed a knife.
The district court of St. Georg did not believe him and sentenced A. to one year for the bodily harm, a second case of dangerous bodily harm was dropped because there was testimony against testimony. And then there was a theft in a supermarket worth a good 17 euros. There was a week’s imprisonment for that. We have appealed the judge’s decision. The negotiation is still pending.
But just a year and a half after entering the country, A. had already injured an acquaintance in the face with a knife at his home in Bad Münstereifel. Weren’t those already alarming signs?
Seelbach: Wait a minute. I wasn’t his attorney then. But the verdict at the time states that he injured his opponent with a sharp object during an argument, a knife was never found. According to the defendant, the injury was caused by the bunch of keys in his hand.
And the numerous entries in the police files?
Seelbach: With the exception of two minor offences, another shoplifting and the possession of one gram of cocaine, all other proceedings have been discontinued. For example, there was a shoplifting he didn’t commit. Another time, while drunk, he punched the shutters of a pub because they didn’t want to let him in. But he paid for the property damage.
And then there was the story when A. wanted to look at an apartment in Dortmund. He does part of the route by bike. On the way back, he came up with the idea of cycling the entire route back between Dortmund and Bonn. So he looked for the shortest route on his mobile phone and then ended up on the Autobahn, where the police picked him up. I call that goofy, but not malicious. In short: My client was not an intensive offender, as some mediums are trying to portray him now.
But doesn’t everyone snort coke or grab a knife?
Seelbach: With Ibrahim A. you have to divide the time in Germany into two phases. In NRW he has always tried to find jobs, worked on construction sites or as a parcel carrier. He should also take up a new position in Dortmund. At that time he was trying to make a living from his own work. He was most definitely not an Islamist terrorist.
And phase two?
Seelbach: At some point in 2021 he called me again. Then he ended up in Kiel. It obviously went downhill from there.
In what way? What happened? Seelbach: Ibrahim A. became homeless, then went to Hamburg and must have slipped into the homeless and drug scene there. I only heard from him again in January 2022 when he was arrested for three offences. During the trial, he then admitted that he had consumed a large amount of coke and heroin during the stabbing in the homeless shelter.
At that time he must have mixed the stuff with ammonia to smoke it as crack as well. However, after his arrest in custody in Hamburg, he became clean again immediately and showed hardly any withdrawal symptoms. The court then also stated that A. had taken a lot of drugs, but had not carried out the acts because of his drug addiction.
What did Ibrahim A. live on in Hamburg to pump himself full of expensive drugs?
Seelbach: That didn’t really come out in the process. He did receive social benefits, but you certainly can’t buy drugs in large quantities from that.
How would you describe the personality of your client? Seelbach: When Ibrahim A. was still living in the Rhineland, he was a person full of life and hope. He tried everything possible. Unfortunately, drugs were probably one of them. Sometimes the young man seemed like a 16-year-old teenager. He often showed up with the craziest hairstyles. A bit inexperienced, clumsy, almost clumsy, he sometimes groped his way into a new mess. But Ibrahim A. kept getting up and trying to get his life under control again.
He even took a paternity test to take responsibility for a friend’s newborn child. However, the result was negative. Later in Hamburg, he seemed different. Any joie de vivre seemed to have vanished. The one-year detention did the rest. Because unlike a normal prisoner, the correctional facility offers nothing to the prisoners. No work, no external contacts, no great variety. No drug therapy either? Seelbach: We applied for therapy after his withdrawal in November 2022. The drug counseling in the JVA Billwerder supported this. The aim was to teach the inmates how to act in the course of drug prevention so that they could stay away from the stuff in freedom. However, the application failed because the immigration office did not issue a current ID card. Therefore, A. had no health insurance, so therapy was refused.
And yet A. was released after a year in custody, and an expert also determined that there was no danger to his environment.
Seelbach: I don’t know the report. Actually, the pre-trial detention should only last half a year before the trial begins. We then appealed against the judgment of the District Court. So Ibrahim A. continued to be in custody. In the end, he had served his sentence in all but a week, so on January 19 the judge in charge ordered him to be released immediately.
Did you accompany him afterwards?
Seelbach: I would like that, but it wasn’t possible. I had already pointed out to the presiding judge in advance that my client would have served the expected maximum sentence of a good year in the foreseeable future anyway. Against this background, a date for the appointment hearing should be set as soon as possible.
The chair then informed me in mid-January that she had no appointment available and that she would release Ibrahim A. immediately if I withdrew my appeal. But that was out of the question, because then the district court judgment would become final. However, we believed that my client had acted in self-defense. Nevertheless, I assured the judge that I would be in touch with A. to discuss this issue.
What did he say to that?
Seelbach: The contact never came about. Before I could reach him by phone, the court order for dismissal was in my fax machine. The arrest warrant was lifted. I immediately called the JVA to speak to my client again before he was released and to encourage them to organize help for him out there. But the JVA officials told me that he was already gone.
My client was immediately kicked out. This is also usual. Anything else would be a deprivation of liberty. But no one was able to prepare him for his return to freedom and take measures to ensure that he didn’t get into trouble again when he was outside.
Seelbach: And then his trail is lost.
A judicial error? Seelbach: At least the district court acted awkwardly – and in a way that I didn’t suggest. A. was also severely affected by the long period in custody. He said several times during the trial that he couldn’t take it anymore, that he couldn’t take it anymore. He also reported on fellow prisoners who constantly pounded on his wall. But that was all in my imagination, there was probably no one there.
The suspicion of a mental disorder was in the room – in the direction of schizophrenia. The expert did address this during the trial, but did not consider the defendant’s changing accounts to be sufficient for a corresponding finding. The loneliness in prison, being torn from normal life.
These factors must now be examined much more intensively after the terrible incidents on the train. Also the question: How did my client spend the days after his release from prison? Was he doing drugs again? All of this needs to be explained.
Is your client given a psychiatric evaluation in a timely manner?
Seelbach: According to the responsible public prosecutor, he should be examined by a forensic psychiatrist in the near future. This is probably to clarify whether charges will be filed or whether an application will be made to place my client in a closed psychiatric ward.
Two young people probably died at the hands of their client, five other passengers were injured, some of them life-threatening, and the relatives are suffering immensely from the consequences of the crime. What does the perpetrator’s defense attorney say to these people? Seelbach: Of course, I find this act just as terrible as everyone else. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to undo this. When the radio announced the news of these young people’s deaths, I was shocked.
At the same time, I suspected that Ibrahim A. could be responsible. As a criminal defense attorney, it is my duty to represent the client as well as possible in court and to clarify who is at fault. In no way do I identify with the crime he is accused of.