A defendant in a high-profile neo-Nazi trial in Germany has become the first to express regret for his actions. He is one of five on trial in connection with the killings of 10 people, mainly of foreign origin.
In his court appearance on Thursday, the defendant, identified in the German media as Holger G., read out a half-hour long statement, which he began by apologizing to the families of the victims.
"First of all, I would like to express my sympathy to the relatives of the victims," he said. "I am terribly sorry that I did this. I would like to apologize."
The 39-year-old suspect also admitted to helping three members of the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU) who allegedly carried out the mainly racially motivated killings, carried out between 2000 and 2007.
Among other things, he admitted supporting the trio by loaning one of them, to whom he bore a strong physical resemblance, identity papers, including his driver's licence.
However, he denied having had any knowledge of the trio's intentions.
"I didn't think it was possible the three could commit violence on this scale," Holger G. told the upper regional court in Munich. He said the three had assured him that they would not use his papers to carry out any "nonsense" and conceded that handing over his driver's license may have been "naïve and stupid." While he admitted to having been a neo-Nazi in his younger years, he claimed to have left the far-right scene in 2004.
Holger G. was the second of five defendants to testify at the trial, following an appearance by Carsten S. 33, who admitted earlier this week to sending the gang a gun and a silencer by courier.
The main accused is Beate Zschäpe, 38, who is charged among other things with complicity in the murders of eight men of Turkish origin, a Greek and a German policewoman. She denies the charges. The other two alleged members of the gang died in an apparent suicide pact in 2011. It was only after the two were found dead that German investigators linked the series of murders to the far-right, having earlier suggested that they may have been carried out by organized criminals from immigrant communities.
The case has deeply embarrassed the authorities and led to the resignation of the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency and some of his counterparts at the state level.
pfd/jm (dpa, AFP)