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Germany

Neo-Nazi suspect's defense says client has 'dependent personality disorder'

Beate Zschäpe's attorney has argued that a psychiatrist's findings reduce his client's criminal liability. But the presented findings clash with a previous report declaring the NSU suspect mentally fit.

Zschäpe's defense attorney Mathias Grasel told the Munich higher regional court on Thursday that psychiatrist Joachim Bauer found Zschäpe to suffer from dependent personality disorder (DPD), one month after a different mental health expert found her to be of sound mind.

The psychological condition, which is characterized by severe dependence on others and submissive behavior, fulfills the legal criteria needed to categorize Zschäpe as lacking criminal liability, Grasel argued.

In his motion before the court, Grasel detailed the conditions of Zschäpe's personality disorder: "severe separation anxiety, feelings of helplessness and incompetence, a tendency to submit to the wishes of others, and a failure with respect to the demands of daily life."

Deutschland Verteidiger lehnen Zschäpe-Gutachter im NSU-Prozess ab (picture alliance/dpa/A. Gebert)

Zschäpe's defense attorney Grasel (right) tasked a pyschiatrist with reviewing her mental health

Details of the evaluation

The defense team commissioned Bauer to review Zschäpe's condition. In order to reach his conclusion, Bauer spent a total of 12 hours over multiple sessions observing and speaking with the accused. He summarized his findings in a 48-page report, which he will present in court next week.

According to Grasel, Zschäpe shared details of her life that she previously had not shared. These included her relationship with her mother, as well as with extreme right-wing National Socialist Underground (NSU) accomplices Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhart.

"Consistent severe physical abuse" by Böhnhardt also played a role in Zschäpe's disorder, the attorney's motion said. 

München NSU Prozess Beate Zschäpe (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel)

A previous mental assessment found Zschäpe to be mentally sound

Mentally sound or not?

The DPD diagnosis clashes with the findings of court-appointed psychiatric expert Henning Sass, who in January 2017 declared Zschäpe to be mentally sound and therefore fully criminally liable.

He also said Zschäpe was inclined to commit actions similar to Mundlos and Böhnhardt, who were accused of murdering ten individuals as part of the NSU.

Mundlos and Böhnhardt died in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011.

Sass reached his conclusion through the basis of the trial's proceedings because Zschäpe refused to undergo a direct assessment.

Doris Dierbach, the attorney for the NSU victims' family members, called for the prosecutor's motion to be dismissed. She argued that Sass had already determined Zschäpe's mental condition and highlighted that Bauer is not a forensic psychiatrist.

The NSU trial opened in May 2013. The prosecution has alleged that as a member of the NSU, Zschäpe was involved in the murder of eight Turkish-Germans, a Greek migrant and a Greek police officer. She has admitted to charges of arson but denies participation in the murders.

If convicted, Zschäpe faces life in prison.

Four other junior NSU members face charges

cmb/kl (dpa, AFP)

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