Uka criminally responsible in shooting of airmen, key witness says
FRANKFURT, Germany — One of Germany’s most prominent psychiatrists testified Monday that the man charged with the murder of two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt Airport last March went to the airport with the intent to kill Americans and is criminally responsible.
Dr. Norbert Leygraf, director of forensic psychiatry at the University of Duisberg-Essen, told the court that Arid Uka, 21, who has confessed to shooting the airmen, had no personality disorder and suffered no mental illness.
Motive is key in German murder trials, and Leygraf’s testimony was considered central to the case.
On the first day of the trial in August, Uka, a Kosovo Albanian immigrant, confessed to killing Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback, 21, and Senior Airman Nicholas Alden 25. Cuddeback was the driver of a bus that airmen arriving from RAF Lakenheath in England were boarding en route to Ramstein Air Base ahead of a deployment to Afghanistan.
Uka said he was influenced by jihadist propaganda on the Internet and wanted to prevent American servicemembers from going to Afghanistan, where he said he believed they would rape Muslim girls. Prosecutors have said Uka watched a video on the Internet that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl, but that what he watched was a scene from the movie “Redacted,” based on the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by U.S. troops in 2006.
When asked why this specific movie made him want to kill Americans, Leygraf said, Uka revealed that he had been sexually molested as a child. Seeing the movie had brought the memories back.
Leygraf said this could be a reason, but only one of the reasons, that Uka committed the crime.
He said that when he examined him in May, Uka said he stood by his deed, but didn’t know why he did it.
Leygraf characterized Uka as a withdrawn person who never talked about his personal problems. The psychiatrist also noted that Uka never had close contact with girls, nor did he try to.
Uka told him that he was directionless and religion gave him stability, with Islam’s law to pray five times a day.
Uka is also charged with three counts of attempted murder. Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider and Senior Airman Edgar Veguilla were wounded in the March 2 shooting. When Uka pointed the gun at another airman, Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer, 23, the gun jammed.
Marcus Traut, who is representing Schneider, Veguilla and Brewer, said after one of the trial dates in September that he suspected Uka’s expressed religious motive was a tactical move to persuade the court to convict him of manslaughter instead of murder.
A murder conviction in Germany carries a life sentence. But parole is possible after 15 years, and there is no sentence of “life without parole.” Manslaughter in Germany carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, Traut said, with eligibility for parole after three years.
Earlier on Monday, a colleague of Leygraf’s, Dr. Boris Schiffer, testified that Uka had a slightly higher-than-average I.Q., but had trouble focusing in school. He also said that Uka admitted to bouts of depression, but was not depressive at the time of the shootings. Schiffer said he found nothing that would diminish Uka’s responsibility in the crime.
At the beginning of Monday’s session, a written motion was made by James Alden, Nicholas Alden’s father, to be named a co-plaintiff in the case, which was granted. Cuddeback’s family is also co-plaintiff.
Monday was the last day of testimony. Lawyers give closing arguments Jan. 9 and the judgment and sentence are to be handed down Jan. 19.