Victims of German neo-Nazi gang await more answers

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

As the trial concerning the National Socialist Underground (NSU) nears a verdict, there are still questions that the German state needs to answer for families of victims, a lawyer representing them says.

The NSU is implicated in the killing of 10 people, including eight Turks mainly for racist motives. The gang is also charged with a bomb attack on a Turkish neighborhood in Germany. Beate Zschaepe is the only surviving member of the gang as Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bohnhardt took their lives when the police closed in on them. The trial started five years ago, but it failed to respond to allegations of a cover-up of intelligence services' ties with the gang and the neo-Nazi scene in general.

Onur Özata, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they expected a verdict before the end of June, but questions still lingered. The defense team of Zschaepe has asked the court to charge her only with arson, claiming she was not involved in the gang. Zschaepe had set a house she shared with Mundlos and Bohnhardt on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence related to the crimes of the NSU."Five years is a long time for a trial in Germany, but we are talking about 10 murders, three bomb attacks and 15 robberies here. The NSU was underground for 13 years and terrorized this country. There are five defendants in the case, and the court heard hundreds of witnesses. So, it is quite normal that the trial took so long," Özata said, regarding complaints that the trial dragged on. Özata said the trial still did not shed light on many matters. "Victims ask why their husbands, fathers or sons were specifically picked out by the gang. This is an unanswered question. They also wonder what the German intelligence service knew about [NSU] and whether it was only a three-person gang," he said, adding that lawyers for the plaintiffs did not believe federal prosecutors' claim that the NSU was only three people.

Blunders on the part of authorities investigating the NSU or "coincidences" leading to the destruction of critical evidence have 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 hired people from the neo-Nazi scene as informants trying 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.

"It does not make sense that a far-right terrorist group would be able to hide in Germany without a network of supporters for 13 years," Özata says. The lawyer believes the court will reject the plea to reduce the sentence for Zschaepe, and she will be sentenced to life. "She was involved in plotting all the murders, and she was also in charge of managing the finances of the group," Özata said.

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