Prague-born Franz Kafka started his famous novel “The Trial” with the even more famous quote: “Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning”. Recently, at one of the hearings in the process of violence in the Municipality of Centar, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told reporters that he and the other defendants “are starting to feel more and more as part of one of the top works dedicated to absurd” – “The Trial” by Kafka.
Gruevski wanted to say that he, like Josef K., did nothing wrong (Kafka in his novel does not say that his main character did something good) and that without any explanation, a court trial against him that grows into agony takes place. Gruevski tried to present his fate as an unsuccessful absurd struggle of an accused person in the world of institutions, in which he could not preserve his integrity, which would destroy his personality and eventually be condemned. Joseph K. ends tragically, he is sentenced to death and after refusing to commit suicide, two men are executed with a knife in his heart. If Gruevski thinks that the whole procedure (as in the “The Trial”) is being conducted by some higher unknown instances and that the defense, as Josef K. realized, is in vain, so from the very beginning he feels that the verdict for him will not be good – perhaps even prison. Josef K. ends tragically, he is sentenced to death and after refusing to commit suicide, two men execute him with a knife to his heart. If Gruevski thinks that the whole procedure (as in the “The Trial”) is being conducted by some higher unknown instances and that the defense, as Josef K. realized, is in vain, then he feels that the verdict for him will be bad – perhaps prison. And with that, end up as horrible as the main character he mentions (however, it is only fiction), but basically to face the main dilemma – will the judgment really be meaningless and leave a dramatic trace on his life who will ultimately qualify as meaningless, if we follow Josef K.’s example.
So it is when one wants to find at least an ounce of connection to one of the key figures of world literature. The answers then are not unambiguous, as the plot in “The Trial”, which is even difficult to read. “The Trial” is one of those novels where the reader barely empathizes with the main character, the reader does not even show the usual sympathy with Josef K’s agony. At the end of the book, the reader has two questions that demand answers:
1. Why was Josef K. arrested? And
2. What kind of court is the one that holds the trial?
Since Nikola Gruevski was not arrested but only charged, the first question can be easily answered with the accusations that the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted to the court, and on the basis of which there are more processes against the former Prime Minister. The reader has no problem answering why Nikola G. – the charges include a dozen situations in which he abused power to harm his political opponents or penetrate the sphere of massive corruption. The SPO wrote the charges, now it has to prove them before the court. The reader also has no problem answering the question to what kind of court is holding the trial against Nikola G. It is the same court from the captured state that Gruevski nurtured as some kind of orchid in his greenhouse – not to love it too much, but only to possess it. When, five or six years ago, the top officials of his government kept explaining that the institutions of the system were doing their work in controversial cases (and the defendants then claimed they were embroiled in Kafka cases), then it is clear that the court has a name and surname, but now, when the roles change, the main character’s allegory should be linked to one’s own destiny. And, previously, there was a complete lack of sensitivity to the fate of others.
In these processes of the SPO, many defendants through their lawyers submit medical findings, some for laryngitis, others for back pain, so as not to appear at the hearings. The court with the name and surname accepts those arguments for postponing the hearings (as opposed to the anger of the prosecutors) and at some moments it resembles a social institution. Someone will say that it is rude if the court sympathizes at least a little with the health condition of the defendants. Maybe so. But what would be if each trial is based on a certain dose of compassion? In which direction would justice go then?
Around the same time in Germany, the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, Oskar Gröning, died at the age of 96. He was one of the last former Nazis who was tried for involvement in the killing of 300,000 people at the Auschwitz death camp, where his role was to collect and count the money from those who were killed or sent to slave labor. He was several times part of the deportation process that came to the Nazi death camp. Gröning was sentenced to four years in prison. Gröning acknowledged the “moral guilt”, saying he was very sorry for his actions and that nobody should have taken part in Auschwitz, however, the public’s reaction was that the verdict is too mild. A few months earlier, Gröning’s lawyers filed a pardon request, stating that he was too old and frail in order to go to jail. But the German Constitutional Court rejected his appeal at the end of December last year, saying that he was in good condition to serve the sentence, despite his old age, and that he would receive appropriate care in the prison.
Last week, Polish prosecutors said US authorities were working on the extradition of 99-year-old Mikhail Karkotz from Minnesota to be tried for participation in a massacre in a Polish village during World War II. The Karkotz case was revealed by the Associated Press agency in 2013 in a series of articles. According to the AP, the native Ukrainian Karkotz was the commander of the units of the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion, led by SS officers, who attacked the village of Hlan in Eastern Poland, killing 44 people, including women and children. The AP agency proved that Karkotz commanded the unit on the basis of the documents of that time, the testimonies of other members of the unit that did the killing, and the memoirs he wrote himself. The AP also proves that Karkotz lied to US immigration authorities several years after the war. His family rejected these allegations, but for US judicial authorities they are hard evidence.
Of course such accusations for the most severe crimes against humanity cannot be in accordance with, for example, the ordered slaps in the Center municipality – these deeds are a million times more serious. But basically, they put the judicial system at any spot height on the planet – whether the prosecutors should ignore the old age and the illness of the perpetrators, and to be kind to those who committed crimes. The German judiciary did not pay attention to the tears and regret of Oskar Gröning – neither the ordinary court nor the Constitutional Court. They should be held accountable for the crime regardless of the age when the process is being conducted. And it does not matter if anyone is in good health. Gruevski said in a statement to reporters, after the violence hearing in Center, that: “Today there was one of the defendants who was ill and who delivered a medical certificate, issued a note from the family doctor that he should rest. And for him, if you can believe, the prosecutor has asked for custody because he is ill, so he should be detained because he became ill. The judge did not bring that decision, but the very fact that the prosecutors dared to ask indicates the insanity of this Public Prosecutor’s Office.”
In Germany, there was not a single word of criticism for the Constitutional Court’s decision that Oscar Gröning should go to jail and serve a four-year jail sentence, regardless of his 96 years of age and poor health. Indeed, it may seem ruthless, but what would become of a judicial system if the reference to age or disease determines the direction of the processes. Would it be justice, or compassion?