Suspects to stand first court hearing in Germany's neo-Nazi terror trial
MUNICH - A year and a half after German security authorities became aware about the existence of a neo-Nazi terror cell, a court in Munich will begin this coming Monday hearing of a case against a chief suspect plus four others on the charges of killing 10 people, including 8 Turks, a Greek national and a German policewoman, between 2000 and 2007, 14 bank robberies, arson and aiding a terrorist group.
The "National Socialist Underground" (or NSU) trial, the highest-profile criminal case in Germany in the past decades, also brings into question modus operandi of Germany's domestic intelligence agencies, fueling doubts that German authorities had been "reluctant" to clamp down on the NSU when it staged its first attack, a bombing in 1998 in the city of Jena.
A string of revelations about the NSU and its ties since November 2011, when the cell's existence first came to light after Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bonhardt -- two of the three known members of the NSU who allegedly killed themselves following a failed bank robbery -- have sent shockwaves through German politics, security bureaucracy and the Turkish community, and expectations have been raised that the trial will shed light on suspicions involving German state institutions.
-NSU begins attacks-
After joining in 1990s in a far-right group called "Kameradschaft Jena," Mundlos, Bonhardt and Beate Zschaepe, the third NSU member and the sole surviving suspect in the case, staged their first attack in January 1998 by detonating 10 grams of TNT at the Theater Square in Jena. No one was injured.
The cell went underground after German intelligence services raided Zschaepe's house and her garage where they found bomb-making materials. The group robbed a market and three banks in 1999, strengthening their financial support.
The first victim of the NSU was Enver Simsek, a Turk in Nurnberg, who was murdered on September 9, 2000. In 2001, the group staged a bomb attack on a market in Cologne, seriously wounding the Iranian owner.
The second victim was Abdurrahim Ozudogru who was killed on June 13 in 2001. He was a dressmaker from Nurnberg.
Two weeks later, Suleyman Taskopru, who owned a grocery store, was murdered on June 27 in Hamburg.
The fourth killing came in Munich on August 29, 2011, when Habil Kilic was murdered and the NSU went into hiding for the next two and a half years until they acted again in February 2004 to murder Mehmet Turgut, owner of a kebab shop on in Rostock.
On 9 June 2004, a pipe bomb was detonated in Cologne in a business area popular with immigrants from Turkey. Twenty-two people were wounded, four sustained serious injuries. A barber's shop was completely destroyed, many shops and numerous parked cars were seriously damaged by the explosion and nails were added to the bomb for extra damage.
Ismail Yasar, a kebab shop owner, was killed on June 9, 2005 in Nurnberg, and seven days later a Greek national, Theodoros Boulgarides, was killed in his shop in the vicinity of a crime scene from the previous murder of August 2011 in Munich.
On April 4, 2006, the kiosk vendor Mehmet Kubasik was found dead in his shop in Dortmund and the trio killed their last foreign victim Halil Yozgat, an internet cafe owner, two days later in Kassel.
The NSU trio are also believed to have killed German police officer Michele Kieswetter on April 25 in 2007.
-Mundlos and Bonhardt found dead-
Mundlos and Bonhardt were found dead in a torched caravan on November 4 in 2011 in the city of Eisenbach in Germany. It was announced that they committed suicide. Police found in the caravan a semi-automatic pistol which the trio used in all the murders. Three hours after the incident, Zschaepe, set fire to her house in Zwickau. She surrendered to the police in Jena four days later.
The killings led to the questioning of the working methods of the state intelligence services and police forces with a popular belief that the German government was blind on its "right eye."
Heinz Fromm, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, resigned on 2 July 2012, shortly after it was revealed that his office had "accidentally" destroyed files regarding informants within far-right groups, which led to resignations of heads of intelligence agencies in four states.
Apart from Zschaepe, four suspects will stand trial on the charges of aiding the NSU.
The trial is expected to last two years and 85 hearings are planned.
Saturday, May 04, 2013