Germany's neo-Nazi trial sheds light on gang, alleged cover-up
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULMar 17, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Mar 17, 2016 12:00 am
Beate Zschaepe, the sole surviving member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) - a German neo-Nazi gang responsible for racially-incited murders - broke her silence again during her three-year-long trial regarding her NSU membership, albeit in written statements, while lawyers for NSU victims claimed the state turned a blind eye to the gang.
Zschaepe answered judges' questions through her lawyer for the second time since December 2015 when she agreed to finally make statements after keeping silent throughout the hearings on the gang's crime spree of murders, robberies and bombings. She said she had been repeatedly beaten by fellow NSU member Uwe Böhnhardt. Böhnhardt and fellow militant Uwe Mundlos had killed themselves when the police closed in on the gang after a botched bank robbery while Zschaepe was captured after she burned down the house the trio shared in Zwickau, Germany, allegedly to destroy evidence of her connection to the gang. Zschaepe said in a written statement to the judges that beatings at the hands of Böhnhardt dated back as early as 1998 before the gang began its serial murders of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman, launched a bomb attack in a predominantly Turkish neighborhood in Cologne and robbed banks. The court in Munich also heard Zschaepe's acknowledgement of contact with a couple who were acquainted with the NSU members. Andre E., a well-known name in Germany's far-right scene, and his wife told the court during previous hearings that they were not aware of the murders and bomb attacks by the gang.
Meanwhile, Doris Dierenbach, a lawyer for the family of Halit Yozgat, one of German Turkish citizens slaughtered by the NSU, claimed German security agencies "paved the way" for the NSU to flourish when an intelligence agency "foiled" the arrest of the trio in 1998. The lawyer filed a complaint earlier this week, and said the state "failed" to prevent the gang's activities when it stepped in to stop the arrest of an informant for the intelligence agency by the police. The informant would have likely led to more information about NSU members who were seeking to procure weapons in 1998 and probably, to their arrest, the lawyer argued.
The NSU trial and prosecution of the gang were mired by a series of incidents overshadowing the case, such as the suspicious deaths of key witnesses who were familiar with the activities of the gang. German authorities were also blamed for not shedding light on the possible connection between the gang and German intelligence, which recruited informants close to the gang from Germany's far-right scene.
Zschaepe has claimed she learned about the crimes between 2000 and 2007 only after they occurred. She said she was "horrified" when Böhnhardt and Mundlos told her about some of the murders and thought about informing the police. What changed her mind was the "threat by the two men to commit suicide" and her financial dependence on the men. She said she felt "morally guilty" because she could not prevent the crimes, and ended up drinking four bottles of wine per day to forget what transpired. Zschaepe also admitted that she set fire to a flat occupied by the gang. She said she acted out of an agreement she had previously made with the duo to destroy evidence of their crimes if they died.