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Many questions remain in NSU trial ahead of Zschäpe testimony

Beate Zschäpe, on trial for alleged involvement in a series of murders by the far-right NSU, is to deliver a statement through her lawyer. But will it provide many answers? DW's Andrea Grunau summarizes the trial so far.

Throughout the two and a half years of the trial over the NSU murders, Beate Zschäpe has been seen whispering, yawning and looking away, but has not said a word to contribute to the proceedings.

So far, the trial itself has produced some answers, but by no means all.

Now her defense lawyer is expected soon to read out her long-awaited statement. But it remains to be seen whether it will give the information prosecutors and victims' family and friends are looking for.

Choice of victims

The most important question for the bereaved of the far-right National Socialist Underground murder victims (NSU) is, "Why?" Beate Zschäpe is the only one who can possibly answer that question.

NSU Prozess Nebenkläger München Deutschland

Co-plaintiffs want to know why their loved ones were killed

After almost 250 hearings and 500 witness interviews since the beginning of Zschäpe's NSU trial in 2013, the choice of victims has still not been explained. Were they all coincidental targets? No one knows. Eight of them were men of Turkish origin, one of Greek origin, and the last known attack was on a policewoman.

Who was the NSU and who supported them?

Everyone speaks of the "NSU trio." The main accused, Beate Zschäpe, lived together with the other two members of the alleged killer trio, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who died in 2011 in an apparent murder-suicide. They had lived seemingly normal lives under false names for 13 years. The three had probably been radicalized in a right-wing extremist organization run in the eastern German state of Thuringia by an undercover officer of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The trio went into hiding in 1998 but they obviously maintained a strong network. Many witnesses from the neo-Nazi scene were heard in the trial.

Deutschland Terror Neue Durchsuchungen gegen mutmaßliche Nazi-Terrorhelfer Kombo

Zschäpe (r.) is accused of aiding alleged killers Uwe Böhnhardt (l.) and Uwe Mundlos

Mehmet Daimagüler, the lawyer who represents the family members of two murder victims from Nuremberg, speaks of 28 supporters who were identified by name in the trial. He says, "One built and sold a Nazi game and the proceeds were donated to the trio. The other found an apartment, the third one drove the car away and the fourth one procured identity documents." He says it is imaginable "that there were many people of whom we know nothing."

Mundlos and Böhnhardt are considered to be the main perpetrators of NSU terrorist attacks. After a bank robbery in the eastern German town of Eisenach on November 4, 2011, police found them shot dead in a burning mobile home. Germany's Federal Prosecutor charged Beate Zschäpe with complicity in jointly planned murders, bombings and robberies, which she helped plan but did not actually carry out.

brennender Wohnwagen des NSU-Trios

Böhnhardt and Mundlos died in a fire in a mobile home

Strong evidence against Zschäpe

"As for the evidence, she has her back to the wall," says the co-plaintiff's lawyer Sebastian Scharmer. He expects a conviction; a statement will change little. The act of arson after the deaths of Mundlos and Böhnhardt plays a key role. The court painstakingly gathered detailed evidence which suggests that Zschäpe set their apartment on fire to cover their tracks and thereby also jeopardized the life of an 89-year-old neighbor.

Zwickauer Neonazi-Terrorzelle Brandstiftung

Zschäpe is alleged to have set fire to the trio's apartment

Four days later, when Zschäpe turned herself in to the police, there were traces of gasoline on her socks. Then logfiles of Zschäpe's Internet activities prior to the fire and gas cans were found in the apartment. There are witnesses who saw Zschäpe running away from the crime scene. But the arson speaks for itself, argues Scharmer: had Zschäpe known nothing, she would not have needed to eliminate any tracks.

And if that were not enough, numerous clues about the NSU terrorists were left behind: a large arsenal of weapons, maps of the crime scenes and newspaper articles about NSU terrorism, which also appear in videos claiming responsibility. Zschäpe's fingerprints were found on the articles and the envelope containing the DVD with the video.

Were more accomplices involved?

"Every day, Gamze Kubasik has the feeling she could be running into her father's co-murderers," says Sebastian Scharmer of his client. The kiosk in Dortmund where Mehmet Kubasik was shot is not easy to find for people who are not local residents. This applies to several NSU crime scenes. "We believe that there were helper networks at most crime scenes," says Mehmet Daimagüler. Many witness accounts did not match the descriptions of Mundlos and Böhnhart, so in the beginning, the Federal Prosecutor swept the statements under the carpet, attributing them to faulty memories. But the evidence accumulated during the course of the trial has shown that others were indeed likely involved in the murders.

Gamze Kubasik NSU Prozess München

Gamze Kubasik's father was one of the victims

The role of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution

"The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has put up walls around it since the NSU story came out," says Daimagüler. He claims that in November 2011, the office "fired up the shredding machines." Allegedly, the files destroyed dealt with undercover agents involved in the organization from which the NSU had emerged in the German state of Thuringia.

About 30 undercover agents were active in the NSU's environment, according to estimates by Sebastian Scharmer. He said it was important for his client to know whether the killings could have been prevented. There were indications that two undercover agents had informed the Protection of the Constitution on how the trio could be captured. Nothing was done.

Little expectation of remorse

Gamze Kubasik has no great hopes that Beate Zschäpe will provide a detailed explanation. "I'm afraid she just wants to save her own skin," she told the German newspaper "Tagesspiegel." Lawyers also have few expectations in view of the fact that Zschäpe's defense lawyer Mathias Grasel announced that she did not want to answer the co-plaintiffs' questions. Many co-plaintiffs would have liked a statement by Zschäpe. "I would be very angry if she said nothing," said Semiya Simsek, daughter of the first murder victim, in an interview with DW before the trial.

brennender Wohnwagen des NSU-Trios

Mehmet Daimagüler is a lawyer and author

Zschäpe has not shown any signs of sympathy for the victims. Lawyer Mehmet Daimagüler sits just a few meters away from Zschäpe in the courtroom and notes, "Ms. Zschäpe has followed the whole thing with a general lack of interest. She was only visibly shocked when an autopsy photo of Uwe Mundlos was accidently projected on the wall."

The lawyer witnessed different behavior in Carsten S., who had once provided the NSU members with weapons. He left the right-wing scene years ago and gave a full confession at the trial. Carsten S. "looked at pictures of the victims intensively. You could see in the fright in his eyes." Daimagüler's client thanked Carsten S. for his confession; she said, "I had the feeling that there were tears in his eyes."

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