German prosecutor blames suspected neo-Nazi for murders

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2017 9:31 AM

By Jörn Poltz

MUNICH (Reuters) - Germany's federal prosecutor on Tuesday blamed the sole surviving suspect in a neo-Nazi trial for ten murders between 2000 and 2007, saying the group she belonged to wanted to "shake the foundations" of German society.

In one of the most closely watched trials in Germany's post-war history, prosecutors say Beate Zschaepe was part of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose members killed eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman.

Zschaepe, 42, has denied taking part in the murders with two friends who killed themselves in 2011 when police discovered the gang by chance. But she has, through her lawyer, said she felt morally guilty for not stopping them.

Federal public prosecutor Herbert Diemer said four years of hearing evidence had shown that Zschaepe was a "co-founder, member and accomplice" of a terrorist organization. The evidence also backed up accusations against four co-defendants, who are suspected accomplices and supporters, he said.

Zschaepe listened to Diemer with an expressionless face, her chin resting on her hands.

Diemer said the group had carried out "the most violent and infamous terror attacks in Germany" - including two bombings and 15 bank robberies - since the Red Army Faction, which is estimated to have killed 34 people between 1970 and 1991.

Although the NSU murders were carried out by Zschaepe's two friends, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, she played a major role behind the scenes, senior public prosecutor Anette Greger said.

"The accused was a key stabilizing force in the group," Greger said, noting that Zschaepe was involved in planning and had arranged money and alibis.

That contradicts Zschaepe's account. She said in December 2015 that she had "nothing to do with the murders", denied being a member of the NSU and said Boehnhardt and Mundlos only told her about the murders after they had committed them.

If found guilty, Zschaepe could face life imprisonment. The federal prosecutor is expected to comment in coming days on what sentence he will seek.

The closing arguments are expected to take days, so a verdict is unlikely to come before the summer break.

Zschaepe, Mundlos and Boehnhardt were based in eastern Germany, which saw a surge in right-wing violence after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the communist state disintegrated.

Zschaepe has previously said she considered telling police about the murders but decided not to when Boehnhardt and Mundlos, on whom she was financially dependent, threatened to kill themselves. She distracted herself by playing computer games and drinking wine, she said.

A report in 2014 said police had "massively underestimated" the risk of far-right violence and in a "fiasco" of missteps allowed the cell to go undetected for more than a decade.

(Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Louise Ireland)