Day Two of NSU Case: Prosecutor Reads Out Charges in Chilling Detail
Germany's biggest neo-Nazi trial resumed on Tuesday after an eight-day adjournment. The prosecutor read out the charges against the main defendant, Beate Zschäpe, who is accused of involvement in 10 murders. She remained impassive as the families of the victims gasped at the details of the crimes.
The trial of neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe, accused of complicity in racially motivated murders, resumed on Tuesday after an eight-day adjournment that had angered the families of the 10 victims -- eight men of Turkish descent, one Greek man and a German policewoman.
The defense lawyers filed a flurry of fresh motions on Tuesday, requesting that the trial be relocated to a bigger courtroom and complaining that their desks were so close that the judges would be able to see their notes.
Judge Manfred Götzl had adjourned the trial on the first day, May 6, to consider a defense complaint that he was biased against them because he had ordered that defense lawyers be frisked before entering the courtroom. He rejected that motion and also denied the request to have the venue moved, declaring: "Criminal trials are held in public but not for the public."
The second trial day brought confirmation that Zschäpe, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted of the main charge, is unlikely to testify in the trial. When Götzl asked her to provide information about herself, one of her attorneys, Wolfgang Heer, said: "She won't make any statements about her person."
Zschäpe is alleged to have formed the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist group with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt and to have been complicit in the killings committed between 2000 and 2006 as well as in a 2004 bomb attack on a district of Cologne where many Turks live, injuring 22.
Four alleged accomplices are on trial with her. Mundlos and Böhnhardt committed suicide in November 2011.
As Federal Prosecutor Herbert Diemer read out the indictment, Zschäpe, clad in a light grey suit and a white blouse, her long dyed brown hair gathered in a ponytail, sat expressionless, staring in front of her. Diemer accused her of involvement in 10 murders and of being a member of a group whose aim was to "commit murder and criminal acts dangerous to public safety" in order to intimidate the public and "wreak major damage to the state."
The NSU trio, Diemer said, had believed the German nation was under threat and had decided to target people of Turkish descent, "selecting them arbitrarily and killing them through execution-style shootings."
They obtained the murder weapon used in all the killings, a Ceska 83 with a silencer, in late 1999 or early 2000 but had a total of more than 20 firearms "including two submachine guns with more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition," said Diemer. They also had a camouflaged firing device designed "to fire off a salvo of bullets without being spotted by the public."
Zschäpe showed no visible reactions, even when Diemer reached a point that drew gasps from the families of the victims present in the courtroom. He said the nine immigrant victims had all been completely unaware of the threat and defenseless. In each case "they were shot in the head from a short distance and taken completely by surprise in an everyday situation."
'Central Paralysis Combined With Blood Loss'
He read out the names of the victims from the first one, Enver Simsek, a flower wholesaler shot at his mobile flower stall in Nuremberg on September 9, 2000, to Halit Yozgat, murdered in his Internet cafe in Kassel on April 6, 2006.
Diemer read out a list of the fatal wounds in chilling detail. "Lethal shot in the head," "shot through the face," "shot through the neck," "shot through the head near the right cheek," "central paralysis combined with blood loss," "immediate death through brain stem injuries."
In each case, Zschäpe was involved in the planning and the preparation of the crimes, including in the procurement of weapons, according to the indictment.
The only purpose of the NSU, said Diemer, "was to kill people."
The trial will continue on Wednesday.
The police never seriously considered that the motive may be racismand instead suspected that the victims themselves had links with criminal gangs.
The case has alarmed the country's 3 million people of Turkish descent and has been a huge embarrassment to Germany because of the catalogue of errors made by the police and security authorities that exposed them to accusations of institutional racism and of having been blind to the threat of right-wing extremism.
cro -- with wire reports
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Charge: complicity in 10 homicides, two bomb attacks and 15 armed robberies, membership in a terrorist organization, attempted murder and arson
Pre-trial detention: since November 8, 2011
NSU links: Zschäpe is believed to be a founding member of the NSU terror cell. According to the federal prosecutor's office, she and the group's two other members, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos -- both of whom are deceased -- held roles of equal importance within the cell. It is believed that Zschäpe did not carry out any murders herself, but was indispensable to the NSU group. According to the prosecution, Zschäpe helped to create a veneer of normalcy for the terror cell. She was in charge of logistics, served as accountant and rented vehicles for the group. In addition, she archived articles discussing the crimes of the terror cell and allegedly was involved in procuring a weapon and false documents. Finally, the 37-year-old is believed to have set fire to the apartment that had served as the final hiding place for the trio and to have sent out DVDs in which the group claimed responsibility for the crimes.
Charge: accessory to murder in nine cases
Pre-trial detention: since November 29, 2011
NSU links: Wohlleben, born in 1975, allegedly helped the terror trio financially when they went into hiding in 1998 and provided them with money later. In late 1999 or early 2000, Wohlleben, a former functionary of the far-right NPD party, allegedly helped the group acquire a handgun and ammunition with the aid of a courier. The semi-automatic Ceska 83 was identified as the murder weapon in nine cases of homicide involving small business owners and employees of foreign descent.
Charge: support of a terrorist organization in three cases
Pre-trial detention: November 13, 2011 until May 25, 2012
NSU links: Holger G., born in 1974, is believed to have been in contact with the terror trio since the late 1990s. He allegedly gave over his drivers' license, a health insurance card and his passport to the NSU, enabling its members to act covertly and commit racially motivated crimes. He also transported a weapon for the terrorists. G. confessed his crimes in a comprehensive statement to the investigators.
Charge: accessory to murder in nine cases
Pre-trial detention: February 1 until May 29, 2012
NSU links: Carsten S. -- allegedly with money from Ralf Wohlleben -- bought the weapon that killed nine small business owners and employees. The 32-year-old also delivered the handgun to the terror cell in Chemnitz. S. has acknowledged his involvement in a comprehensive confession to the federal prosecutor's office.
Charge: support of a terrorist organization, complicity in a bomb attack and accessory to robbery
Pre-trial detention: November 23, 2011 until June 14, 2012
NSU links: The trained stonemason allegedly assisted the terror cell starting in the 1990s, helping them with car rentals and the lease for an apartment. The 33-year-old and his wife allegedly visited the NSU-members regularly, and E. allowed Zschäpe to pose as his wife in 2006.