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NSU neo-Nazi suspect Zschäpe rejects defense lawyers

The main figure in Germany's trial of neo-Nazi suspects accused of a racist killing spree has withdrawn her confidence in her three court-appointed defense lawyers. Beate Zschäpe has been on trial since May 2013.

Presiding Munich judge Manfred Götzl on Wednesday adjourned the trial until Tuesday next week and gave Zschäpe until this Thursday afternoon to formally explain her move.

The three defense lawyers declined to comment.

Zschäpe, who remained typically mute for a 128th day of proceedings in the courtroom, communicated her decision to reject her lawyers via a police officer.

She nodded her head in affirmation when asked by the judge if she had lost confidence in her legal team.

A spokesman for the federal prosecutions office in Karlsruhe said the court could only end the defense representation if it determined that the lawyer-client relationship was "irreparably shaken." Such applications were rarely granted.

If the Munich Higher Regional Court did so, a new defense team would have to be appointed, but it was unlikely that the trial would need to start again from scratch, the spokesman said.

Whether to testify at issue?

The German news agency DPA said Zschäpe and her lawyers were at odds on whether she should answer questions in court.

Prosecutors say Zschäpe is the sole surviving member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) being tried over the murders of nine migrant residents - mostly of Turkish origin - and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

Two key NSU suspects, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, died in an apparent suicide in November 2011 as police closed in on them after a bank robbery.

ipj/dr (dpa, AFP)

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