A neo-Nazi group killed eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek citizen, and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007, in a case that sparked debate about institutional racism and the failures of German security and intelligence organisations.
Germany's highest court has rejected the appeals of three people who were convicted in one of the country's most high-profile murder trials involving a far-right group.
The decision announced on Thursday by the Federal Court of Justice confirms the life sentence given three years ago to Beate Zschaepe, the only known survivor of the National Socialist Underground.
A Munich regional court found Zschaepe guilty in 2018 of 10 counts of murder for her role in the killing of nine men – eight of Turkish origin and one of Greek – and a police officer between 2000 and 2007 .
She was also convicted of membership in a terrorist organisation, participating in two bomb attacks and more than a dozen bank robberies, and of attempted murder for setting fire to the group’s hideout after its existence came to light.
Failings in the investigation
The German public first learned of the group's existence and its role in the murders in 2011, when two members – Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bohnhardt – died after an unsuccessful bank robbery and police found guns and far-right literature in their apartment.
Although Zschaepe denied having been present for any of the killings, the court concluded she was involved in planning each one. Her two accomplices, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011 following a botched robbery.
The federal court this week also upheld the convictions of two men who had helped the group: Ralf Wohlleben, who was found guilty of accessory to murder for helping supply the trio with a handgun and silencer he knew they planned to use for the killings; and Holger Gerlach, who was convicted of supporting a terrorist organisation for providing the NSU group with a firearm and forged identity papers while its members were on the run.
Anti-racism campaigners have accused German authorities of numerous failings during their investigation of the killings.
Gamze Kubasik, whose father, Mehmet Kubasik, was killed by the NSU in 2006, welcomed Thursday's court decision and called on Zschaepe to reveal the names of others who helped the group.
The appeal of a fourth man convicted in the case is expected to be heard later this year. A fifth defendant withdrew his appeal.
The scandal surrounding the NSU sparked a debate in Germany about institutional racism and the failures of German security and intelligence organisations, which have long been criticised for underestimating the far-right threat.
Until 2011, Germany’s police and intelligence services ruled out any racial motive for the murders and instead treated immigrant families as suspects, questioning them over alleged connections with mafia groups and drug traffickers.
While recent revelations have shown that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV) had dozens of informants who had contacts with the NSU suspects, officials insisted that they had no prior information about the NSU terror cell and its suspected role in the killings.
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