Five years after the trial started, a court in Munich may issue the final verdict mid-summer in the case of the National Socialist Underground (NSU). At least this is what is scheduled based on the stage of the trial, where the neo-Nazi gang is accused of a string of racist murders including the killing of eight German citizens of Turkish origin. Closely watched by the Turkish community, the trial may conclude with no insight into the alleged role or cover-up of authorities, activities of the gang, something voiced by the trial's critics.
The trial has started two years after Beate Zschaepe set fire to a house she shared with Uwe Mündlos and Uwe Böhnhardt when two other members of the gang killed themselves as police closed in on them following a botched robbery. Along with Zschaepe, four defendants are on the dock for aiding and abetting the gang. In earlier hearings, lawyers for Zschaepe, who diligently kept her silence and issued a written defense, asked for a maximum 10-year prison sentence for her, citing she can only be accused of serious arson and being an accomplice in several robberies by the gang, not the murder of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman over seven years from 2000. Zschaepe herself denied the murder charges earlier and said through her lawyer that she only felt guilty for not stopping Mündlos and Böhnhardt. Zschaepe is also on trial over two bombings in Cologne that targeted neighborhoods with predominantly migrant populations and 15 bank robberies.
In yesterday's hearing, lawyers for Carsten S., a defendant accused of supplying weapons to the gang, called for the 38-year-old man's acquittal. Lawyers said their client did not know anything about the planned murders by NSU. Carsten S. is accused of supplying a Ceska pistol to Mündlos and Böhnhardt while the duo was in the city of Chemnitz and it was that pistol used in the murders of Turks and a Greek man. The prosecution has requested judges to hand down a three-year prison term.
The court will hear other defendants in the coming weeks, including those who supplied the gang members with forged IDs and helped them to acquire vehicles and a safe house.
Blunders on the part of authorities investigating the NSU or "coincidences" leading to destruction of critical evidence had been piling up in the case since the gang's existence was made public in 2011. Critics of the case claim police and intelligence services that hired people from the neo-Nazi scene as informants tried to erase their tracks leading to the NSU case. Despite its links to many gangs in Germany's neo-Nazi scene, the NSU apparently went unnoticed for years, from the late 1990s to 2011. Authorities initially blamed domestic disputes in the Turkish community for the murders and other crimes between 2000 and 2007.
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