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NEONAZI terrorist Beate Zschaepe was found guilty by a Munich court today in the killings of 10 people, most of them of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2007.
Judges sentenced Ms Zschaepe to life in prison for murder, membership of a terror group, bomb attacks that injured dozens and several lesser crimes including a string of robberies.
Four men were found guilty of supporting the group in various ways and sentenced to prison terms of between two-and-a-half and 10 years.
Ms Zschaepe helped to form the National Socialist Underground (NSU) with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, who killed each other shortly before she was arrested in 2011.
The NSU trio evaded capture for 14 years thanks to a network of supporters, with some accusing Germany’s security apparatus of racism and complicity.
“The investigation went in the wrong direction, not due to the failure of individuals but due to institutional racism,” said Alexander Hoffmann, a lawyer representing victims of a 2004 bomb attack in Cologne. He urged a wider probe of NSU supporters.
Officials initially dismissed any idea that there was a far-right motive behind the 10 murders and two bombings, instead focusing on organised migrant criminal gangs — despite having no evidence to justify doing so.
Presiding judge Manfred Goetzl said the trio agreed in late 1998 to kill people “for anti-semitic or other racist motivations” in order to intimidate ethnic minorities and portray the state as impotent.
Mr Goetzl said Ms Zschaepe’s contribution was “essential for carrying out the robberies and attacks,” which couldn’t have happened without her.
Her lawyers had tried to portray her as naive and uninvolved in the killings themselves.
Anti-fascists have drawn attention to similarities between the current rising wave of racism in Germany, as represented by the far-right AfD party, and that of the late ’90s.
Barbara John, the government ombudswoman for the victims’ families, said: “One big question remains: Do we in Germany really want to know why and how the NSU murders occurred?
“If that were the case, the work of politicians and civil society needs to continue.”
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, currently trying to outflank the far right with his own racist measures, welcomed the verdicts.
Earlier this week Mr Seehofer boasted to reporters that deportations were rising, noting that 69 asylum-seekers were deported to Afghanistan on his 69th birthday. One of them has since committed suicide, sparking further calls for Mr Seehofer’s resignation.
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