The Case Gustl Mollath – The Time of the Hyenas


A critical media research

by Ursula Prem

English translation by courtesy of Frank Ludwig

Between 13th and 15th of Dec 2012 three different German newspapers published articles, apparently with an equal aim: To change the public opinion about Gustl Mollath, as not being a victim of the legal system, but, in fact, a real mentally ill person. Not a big issue, some may say, in times of economic pressure, poor salaries and a resulting lack of research time. This case, however, seems to demand special attention since: All three media made a complete turn in their view of the case, almost at the same date, but without any major new facts. 


While, on Nov 30th, 2012, “Spiegel Online” titled: »Imprisoned in the white-blue corruption«: the trust in politics and the legal system has deeply suffered, on Dec 13th, they headlined: »Why the legal scandal, in fact, is none« and claimed »Mollath still lives in a mania of being pursued by a campaign of destruction.«


Newspaper “Die ZEIT” found on Nov 21st, 2012 : »Gustl Mollath accused his wife because of illegal bank transactions – and ended up in forensic psychiatry. Now it shows: wrongly.«


On Dec 14th, they titled: »An ill person becomes a hero« and they asked the question: »Was Gustl Mollath from Nuremberg imprisoned in a forensic clinic because he uncovered a bank scandal? Or is he being used as an alleged victim of the legal system for an election campaign.«


Also the “Tagesspiegel” did not fail to follow this display of editor’s randomness. On Dec 1st a headline said: »Doctors want new medical experts«, »Gustl Mollath was imprisoned in a forensic clinic – because he was telling the truth.« On Dec 15th they wrote: »Gustl Mollath: The wrong hero«, »Gustl Mollath supporters spread implausible conspiracy theory  and false statements. With this they harm their questionable hero.«


Were there major new findings, which could explain this simultaneous move? –No!

Only the SPIEGEL introduced a new version of the occurrence of a medical prescription of the injuries of Mollath’s former wife, which raises a new contradiction: the author of the attest stated by the SPIEGEL is not the one stated by the district court.


How then comes, that three major German newspapers simultaneously reinterpret the events completely, using known facts, files and statements, with selective omissions and moderate distortions? Shouldn’t this prick up ones ears? It, in fact, seems to be a master piece display of how press media can manipulate public opinion.


Comparing all three articles they show surprisingly parallel story lines, which appear as if they were fulfilling the same order specification. All three articles deal with the following four issues:


1. Displaying Gustl Mollath as a dangerous and mentally ill person




»Here, for example, Mollath’s supporters argue differently from three forensic psychiatrists with good repute, that Mollath is not dangerous.«


The SPIEGEL omits two facts here: two other forensic psychiatrists, with good repute (Dr Simmerl, Dr Weinberger) found the opposite. Their expert opinion has not been considered during the entire trail, for whatever reasons.  And, while both, Dr Simmerl and Dr Weinberger have had long interviews with Mollath, the expert report, which were decisive for Mollath’s detention, was done without talking to Mollath at all, but just by reviewing paper.


1.2. The Tagesspiegel used different words for the same issue:


»They create the impression, as if one should believe a criminal and mentally ill detained person more than the justice system


As of Mollath’s alleged mania, experts have different opinions, as explained above. But there are clear indications that his so called mania was a reality. The retrial has begun, as was stated by justice minister Mrs. Merk in the Bavarian parliament, that is she pushed a reset button, so that the statements of Mollath’s mania by these press media means prejudices.


1.3. “Die ZEIT” follows more subtly, but stimulating the same impression:


»Mollath stays calm, but responds with suspicions to each question. “I made experience, which exceeds the limits of torture like circumstances.”«


As this statement of Mollath sounds beyond believes in a constitutional state and is not supported by a concrete example, it sounds as if he is not normal. But when listing to the entire interview done by BR station »Kontrovers«, concrete examples were mentioned by Mollath, e.g., frequent nightly room checks using harsh lights into his face, which reminds of sleep deprivation torture. The clinic has not denied this.

Why does “Die ZEIT” hide this circumstance, even though the interview was easily retrievable before the publication of the article?


2. Discrediting angry citizens as an “upset mob”


All three articles attempt to discredit critical citizens as being part of a mob.




»Criticized are alleged courtesy expert reports and quick examinations, which display psychiatry as “dark zone of justice”, - and people applaud. They blindly express their solidarity with the alleged justice victim in letters and internet blogs. Each statement by anyone is followed, as long as it fits their belief. This swarm intelligence reveals new alleged questions on a daily basis in the Mollath case.«


Everyone who gathers information and expresses his opinion in the Mollath case, be it for humanity reasons or just politically interested, exercises a right, which is protected by the constitutional law. Not thanks to the press media, but thanks to committed and longtime supporters, numerous documents are now available as primary sources. Everyone able to read shall read! And there are names of high repute of the German legal system and jurisprudence among the supporters, such as the Professor Dr Henning Ernst Müller from Regensburg university and former senior state attorney Gabriele Wolff, who wrote among other things: »I have experienced the Internet as important corrective factor, as possibility to defend against personal rights violating prejudice opinion of majority mass media.«


2.2. Tagesspiegel:


»The entire case is so electrifying for the public, because mania and reality are mixed in way that everything is messed up.«


The case is so electrifying for the public, because in Germany it seems to be possible to be imprisoned for seven and more years in forensic psychiatry, without contradictions have been dealt with by a court. This case has shocked people for its explosive mixture that criminal complaints against influential persons were not prosecuted, but instead, the plaintiff was eliminated behind forensic walls. Gerhard Strate from Hamburg, a lawyer with highest repute, clearly pointed out in an expert assessment that there was an initial suspicion in the claims of Mollath, which must have been pursued. People know, in the German system for someone working at a supermarket cashier a minor offence is pursued immediately. And people realize that the litigation press reports of the three newspapers SPIEGEL, Die ZEIT and Tagesspiegel and their trampling on Mollath, who is already on the ground, is disgusting. In short, everyone who has read about the facts does not believe you!  


2.3. The often fine mannered Die ZEIT uses following terms:


»Will in the future an Internet mob decide, who is dangerous for the public, and who is not?«


Thousands use their constitutional right to learn about the Mollath case and voice their opinion on the Internet. To label them “mob”, throws a characterizing light on how these media companies weight this right. 


3. Talking about conspiracy theory


Using the term “conspiracy theory” is a well-known technique to defuse a confusing situation. All of the three newspapers use this term to vaguely suggest, that the legal scandal in fact is none.




»Mollath, he says [reviewer Kröber] in his assessment, fights in his writings against a supposed “joint conspiracy, where he sees a corner stone in the black money transfer into Switzerland, which is being hidden by all involved persons, and which from his point of view, leads to numerous poor children starving to death.”«

That Mollath explains this in his defence certainly is not directly connected to his case, but it shows that he is someone who is able to think in wider correlations, about which many others do not care, but which certainly exist. That this shall make him a mentally ill person is not understandable, but may rather raise the question, whether Mollath is behind forensic walls because his intelligence!




»Gustl Mollath’s supporters spread incredible conspiracy theories and false statements.«


It may be that some angry citizens every now and then go too far. But why? The fact that a person is locked up for seven years because of a very contestable verdict and a forensic assessment of an expert who never spoke to Mollath remains. And when listing to the press campaign of three main German media SPIEGEL, Tagesspiegel, Die ZEIT, will more likely increase the occurrence of conspiracy theories.


3.3. Die ZEIT


»The court did not involve the doctor as a witness, which nurtures the conspiracy theory.«


The fact that the medical assessment about the alleged injuries of Mollath’s ex-wife was only read during the trail and this assessment is the only item, which was meant to proof Mollath’s guilt, represents a scandal. In reality, from the verdict it becomes not even clear who is the originator of this medical certificate, as SPIEGEL reported, not the doctor herself, but her son has signed it as an assistance doctor. It is also not clear, whether Mollath was responsible for injuries, if they even existed. Not to ask questions in these lights of lack of judicial care, seems to be negligent even for someone who is a not a professional in the legal system!


4. Catering to people’s diffuse fears of criminals


As Mollath has already been labeled as mentally ill and is locked up in forensics, feeding diffuse fears is an easy way to shake opinion of angry people. All of the three press media address this fear.




»A victim during this time said, his family was in fear about Mollath. Just when someone has punctured tires, someone has thrown a big stone into the living room, the glass broke next to the table during dinner. The person who threw the stone was never caught.«


Of course, the alleged victim is not named, not even his initials. The SPIEGEL is protecting victims? What about blaming Mollath for a bag of rice that fell over in China? This sort of convoluted story, with not mentioning any facts, appeals to the public need of security.


4.2. Tagesspiegel does not formulate less disgraceful:


»They give the impression as if one should believe a criminal, who is suffering from mania and who was locked and not the justice system.«


In that the Tagesspiegel repeats that label „mania“, which was put on Gustl Mollath under doubtful circumstances and which has to be clarified in the retrial, the newspaper tries to dissolve the rest of his credibility and fuel fears that a ticking bomb shall be released.


4.3. Die ZEIT reports about alleged bizarr behavior:


»There the behavior of the patient appeared bizarre to the stuff: Mollath refused to eat and wash or put on his shoes. Sometimes he only wore underwear. When other patients opened windows because of the bad smell, he began yelling and felt offended in his human dignity.«


What shall this writing proof? That someone anticipates what comes, and therefore acts irrational or in panic? That some tries to resist an injustice treatment as long as possible, rather than just accepting it? Everyone, who tries to imagine being caught in this situation, might conclude to have reacted similarly. What is the probative value of this story? None! But it supports the image of a mentally distorted person, who when released might react equally in public.




When looking at these four main points, it seems quite obvious that all of the three articles follow the same pattern, which deviates from the earlier direction of these newspapers.

But not strangely enough, shortly after these articles were released, new faces showed up under Hashtag #Mollath on Twitter. The links to the articles were spread over various Twitter accounts within minutes, from users who did not contributed to the case before. Many of these accounts also equal in that they have very little followers but a huge amount of tweets (e.g., 69 followers with over 12.000 (!) tweets), which is a difficult to achieve as such. It seems quite clear that these accounts do not serve for personal communication, but as loud speaker for the newspapers, which shall convey authority through pure amount. None of these accounts did respond to questions or cared about facts. For further investigations please click here!


>> Read German Version: Der Fall Gustl Mollath - Die Stunde der Hyänen

>> Read Part II: Press Scandal About Gustl Mollath