A life sentence for the main defendant was sufficient for Germany to put a lid on the National Socialist Underground (NSU) case where the neo-Nazi gang was accused of killing eight Turks and bombing a neighborhood where Turks lived. However, it is a verdict that did not satisfy Turkey as it failed to shed light on the connections of the NSU, namely links to the intelligence service. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said yesterday that they wanted all the perpetrators of the killings and other unsolved murders to be brought to justice.
"Sentences were low and questions are still unanswered on the role of German intelligence in the case, its support [to NSU] and scope of the NSU network. [German Chancellor] Merkel did not fulfill her promise to reveal the background of the murders in 2012," he pointed out. The spokesman also criticized the release of Ralf Wohlleben, a far-right convict sentenced to ten years for supplying the pistol used in the NSU's murders. Wohlleben was ordered to be released yesterday by Munich's Higher Regional Court after judges ruled that he already served two-thirds of his sentence and was no longer a flight risk.
The NSU is implicated in the killings of 10 people, including eight Turks and a Greek man, mainly based on racist motives. The gang composed of Beate Zschaepe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, who also killed a German policewoman. The gang is also charged with a bomb attack on a Turkish neighborhood in Germany. Mundlos and Bohnhardt took their own lives when police closed in on them. The trial started five years ago, but failed to respond to allegations of a cover-up of intelligence services' ties to the gang and the neo-Nazi scene in general. 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 in 2011 before turning herself in to police.
Critics of the case claim police and intelligence services hired people from the neo-Nazi scene as informants and are 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.
In the final hearing last week in Munich, Zschaepe was sentenced to life while Wohlleben and three others accused of aiding and abetting the gang were handed down sentences of up to 10 years in prison.
The unsatisfying conclusion of the trial has also drawn reactions from German lawmakers. Anton Hofreiter, head of the Greens' parliamentary group, criticized the German intelligence agency that "thwarted efforts to shed light on the case." Hofreiter said the verdict should not be an end to the case. Petra Pau, a Left Party lawmaker and member of a parliamentary committee that investigated the NSU, told reporters after the hearing that there were "still many unanswered questions" in the case.
Gamze Kubaşık, daughter of Mehmet Kubaşık, one of the Turkish victims of the gang, said the verdict was an important step for the families of victims, adding that more needs to be done. "I hope other accomplices of the NSU will be found and tried," she said.