The World from Berlin: Neo-Nazi Case Also Puts Government on Trial
The sole survivor of a neo-Nazi terrorist cell suspected of killing nine people with immigrant backgrounds and a policewoman in Germany has been indicted and will soon face trial. Commentators praise the development but warn that German officials might also face some tough questions about their botched investigation.
In what is expected to be the biggest terrorism trial in Germany since police foiled the Red Army Faction’s far-left murder spree of the 1970s and ’80s, Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office issued indictments on Thursday against the sole surviving member of a deadly neo-Nazi terror cell and its supporters. Munich’s higher regional court will now consider charges of accessory to murder in the slaying of 10 people and membership in a terrorist organization for Beate Zschäpe, who is believed to have been a key figure in the National Socialist Underground (NSU).
Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range said Zschäpe and the terror cell’s two other members had comprised a “unified killing commando” in which all three members were on an equal footing.
One year ago, police uncovered the terror cell after Zschäpe set fire to the apartment where she lived together with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who died earlier in an apparent murder-suicide pact. The group is believed to have murdered nine mostly small business owners of Turkish and Greek descent as well as a policewoman. They are also believed to have committed 15 armed robberies over the years to support their life in the underground. Zschäpe herself has been in investigative custody for a year as charges against her were prepared, but she has so far refused to share her version of events with investigators.
The case has been a source of extreme discomfort for German authorities — not only because it has drawn international attention to persistent xenophobia in some parts of society here, but even more so because it has underscored the failures of the country’s security apparatus, particularly the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), a domestic intelligence organization with branches at the state and federal levels that is tasked with monitoring extremist activity in the country.