Five years after a trial started against the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi gang accused of murdering eight Turks, the German government still faces tough questions on its failure to shed light on alleged links the gang had with intelligence services.
Beate Zschaepe, the sole surviving member of the gang, is standing trial for its crimes, but critics say state officials, especially intelligence service members, should also be investigated for shortcomings in tracking down the suspects and sometimes hiding evidence pointing to their knowledge of neo-Nazi informants tied to the NSU.
Angela Merkel, who was elected chancellor two years before the last crime committed by the gang, has pledged a full investigation of the NSU and its connections; however, according to Alexander Bosch, an Amnesty International official in Germany, she did not keep her promise. Speaking to AFP, Bosch said the identity of the gang's accomplices was still unclear. The gang consisted of Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Boehnhardt and Zschaepe. Two men died in an apparent suicide as the police closed in on the gang in 2011 while Zschaepe claimed in her trial she was simply a witness to crimes and was not involved in the racially motivated murders of eight Turkish-German citizens, a Greek national and a German policewoman, as well as a string of bank robberies and the bombing of a Turkish-dominated neighborhood. Bosch said key points in the case were not put into consideration and they did not expect that authorities would work to shed light on those points. He said they see "clear signs of institutional racism in Germany that helped NSU to commit their crimes." Bosch noted that failure to take a consistent approach to the case may help far-right groups to remain active, citing the rise in far-right movements and that of the Reich Citizens Movement, an extremist group which made the headlines recently with a series of violent incidents in the recent days.
After the discovery of the NSU, seemingly by coincidence, it was revealed in the trial that the gang had connections to informants recruited by the German intelligence agency, which raised the question of whether intelligence officials had knowledge of the gang's activities and deliberately ignored it.
The NSU's crimes between 2000 and 2007 were initially attributed to domestic disputes within ethnic communities by German authorities, which apparently only noticed them when they found a DVD in the residence where Mundlos, Boehnhardt and Zschaepe shared, with evidence pointing to racist motives behind the murders and bombing.
The authorities' failure to detect the activities of the NSU for years prompted concerns of a potential cover-up and even protection of far-right groups, especially after it was revealed that NSU members had close ties to some informants on the payroll of intelligence services. Intelligence services also face a string of legal complaints for destroying evidence linking them to informants connected to the gang. Several intelligence officials have resigned since the trial started, but no legal proceedings are underway on possible negligence and cover-ups related to the case.
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