Four years after it started, the trial of neo-Nazi gang National Socialist Underground (NSU), accused of killing 10 - including Turks - in Germany, apparently will not dig deeper into the connections of the three-member gang. This is what critics and German officials said as the trial nears its end with prosecutors presenting their final pleas.
Lawyers representing the gang's victims slammed prosecutors on Tuesday for obstructing a deeper investigation into the group's murders of a policewoman and nine immigrants - eight Turks and a Greek - between 2000 and 2007.
In a joint statement after the 379th hearing, 10 prominent lawyers accused federal prosecutors of insisting the NSU was only an isolated cell of three neo-Nazis.
"The Federal Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office have not done everything to identify the other suspects who committed these crimes," the lawyers said. They added that the second investigation committee in the Federal Parliament in June also reiterated existing discrepancies in the investigation.
At the time, the NSU murders were committed in different cities, without seeming to arouse the suspicions of domestic intelligence.
The group was uncovered in 2011 when two members died after an unsuccessful bank robbery, and police found guns and propaganda material in their apartment.
Federal prosecutors, who continued presenting their closing arguments on Tuesday at the Higher Regional Court in Munich before the court went to a recess until August 31, stuck to their earlier analysis stating the NSU was founded by three right-wing extremists - Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Bohnhardt and Beate Zschaepe - who had lived underground since 1998 using fake identities.
Prosecutors also accused four other suspects of providing logistical support to the far-right group.
Lawyers representing the NSU victims argued that the neo-Nazi terrorist group had enjoyed support from a wider network of far-right extremists in Germany and had contacts with informants of the domestic intelligence agency.
They accused the prosecutors of blocking a wider investigation to protect informants and intelligence officers suspected of having information on the NSU before 2011.
Since the late 1990s, Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) recruited various informants from the right-wing who were believed to have had contacts with the trio. Officials insisted they had no prior information about the existence of the terror cell and its role in the killings.
Up to 2011, German police and intelligence services dismissed any racial motive for the murders, instead treating immigrant families as suspects with alleged connections to mafia groups and drug traffickers.
A verdict in the trial is not expected before the end of this year. The main suspect, Zschaepe, has so far denied any role in the killings and tried to lay the blame on her boyfriends in the terror cell.
Meanwhile, Germany's ombudswoman for the murder victims has called for a deeper investigation into the killings.
"We are still left with a very thick layer. We have to dig deeper to uncover the truth," Barbara John told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an interview. John said the terrorist group must have had wider support than uncovered by federal prosecutors.
"For their attacks, the NSU members chose uncrowded places, where they could easily run away. They needed help from their supporters to identify these places. We still do not know who these people were or who supported them," she said.
Along with the murders, the NSU was responsible for a bomb attack targeting a Turkish neighborhood in Germany and robberies in 12 different German cities over seven years.
John said although German lawmakers so far founded several investigation committees in the federal and state parliaments, they have not been able to shed much light on the NSU and the murders. The ombudswoman said she was not optimistic about these political efforts, but urged civil society organizations to take a more active role. "People should continue their efforts. One day, somebody could stand up and tell what he or she saw, or what he or she does not want to keep secret anymore," she said. John said there was a need to create a foundation for the victims of all right-wing crimes in Germany, and she would continue to seek support for this initiative.
The case was muddled with allegations that German intelligence and security forces turned a blind eye to the gang up until their "accidental" discovery in 2011 and that officials sought to destroy evidence once the gang's connections to informants from the far-right scene were revealed. The NSU's crimes were only discovered after the deaths of Bohnhardt and Mundlos through a chilling video found in possession of the two men showing the crimes. The discovery of the NSU shed light on how police, either deliberately or mistakenly, blamed domestic disputes in the Turkish community for the murders. Blunders on the part of the authorities investigating the NSU or coincidences that led up to the destruction of critical evidence have also been piling up in the case since the gang's existence was made public. In one case, documents showing the intelligence's connections to informants aware of the NSU's existence were damaged in floods, while some key witnesses died during the trial, though the deaths were linked to illnesses and accidents.
Critics of the case also claim police and intelligence services had hired people from the neo-Nazi scene to serve as informants and have tried to erase their connections to the NSU case. The two families of the murder victims recently sued Germany for damages over the series of mishaps in the case.
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