Six former Heckler & Koch employees were charged in 2015 with illegally making fifteen shipments of the company’s G36 rifles to Mexico. Their trial began in Stuttgart this week in Germany.
The six defendants, aged between 54 and 77, face maximum jail terms of up to five years if found guilty, and the court could also fine the company based in Oberndorf am Neckar, a major centre of the German weapons industry.
The shipments of the rifles were reportedly made in cooperation with the Mexican defense ministry;
Prosecutors charge that the 15 shipments of the military-style weapons between 2006 and 2009 breached Germany’s so-called war weapons control law because they ended up in especially violence-torn Mexican states in breach of the export licence.
The Mexican defence ministry, which is in charge of gun imports, had approved the import of 9,652 H&K rifles, of which 4,796 went to states with particular human rights concerns, including Guerrero, German newspapers have reported.
But (activist Jürgen) Grässlin had other reasons to be dissatisfied with the trial. In 2016, his attorney Holger Rothbauer pressed charges against officials in the German Economy Ministry and the government’s export control office BAFA for helping H&K make the deals. But state prosecutors decided not to pursue the investigation, and the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes has since elapsed.
The defendants argue that the rifles were properly shipped and went to a Mexican police armory. But many Mexican police agencies are famously corrupt, acting as wholly-owned subsidiaries of the country’s drug cartels. They both “lose” weapons that end up in cartel hands or openly work for them.
“Those who enabled these weapons exports aided and abetted murder in Mexico,” (Grässlin) told regional public broadcaster SWR at the protest where demonstrators displayed pictures of disappeared students and G36 models splattered with fake blood.
The campaigner said it was well known that in the most conflict-torn Mexican states both police and narco-gangsters used the G36, and that “often the two groups cooperate”.