The NSU trial and court cases against Islamist terrorists have been in the headlines in Germany lately. They are but the most recent in a series of terrorist trials over the past decades.
Major terrorist trials in Germany
The trial of a 28-year-old man - born and raised in Germany - who allegedly travelled to Syria to join the "jihad" begins on Tuesday, June 16, in Frankfurt. The man is charged with preparing to commit "serious seditious acts of violence."
His court case is only the most recent in Germany, which has seen several high-profile trials over the past decades against defendants from the far-right and the left-wing extremist scene as well as suspects from other countries.
Wednesday, June 17, is scheduled to be the last day of court hearings in the trial of the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU). Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe were members of the neo-Nazi group, which is charged with murder, bombings and robberies committed as a result of their "xenophobic and subversive disposition."
It never became clear how many supporters the group had but of the three prime suspects, only one's still alive. Mundlos and Böhrnhardt seemingly committed suicide in 2013 after police picked up their trail following a bothced bank robbery. This leaves Zschäpe to stand trial. The NSU trial began on May 6, 2013 in Munich and observers expect proceedings of a total of two and a half years.
Frankfurt airport shooter Arid Uka was sentenced to life in prison in February 2012, on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder - the maximum penalty under German law. "This is indeed the first Islamic-motivated terror strike to have happened in Germany," Frankfurt judge Thomas Sagebiel said.
At Frankfurt airport in March 2011, Uka shot dead two US servicemen waiting for a bus to take them to Ramstein Airbase, from where they were scheduled to fly to Afghanistan. According to the judge, Arid Uka wanted revenge for the continuing operation in Afghanistan. The Kosovo-born man acted alone, radicalized by propaganda on the Internet.
The so-called Sauerland group was a German cell of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a terrorist group on the Pakistani-Afghan border. The German branch included four German and Turkish men who planned nationwide attacks from their base in Germany's western Sauerland region. Arrested in September 2007, they were charged with membership in a foreign terrorist group, preparing a bomb attack and planning murder. In March 2010, a Düsseldorf court sentenced them to long jail sentences.
In 2006, two young men who had each left a suitcase packed with explosives on board a train were labeled as the "Cologne suitcase bombers". The bombs never exploded because the men, both Lebanese, had made mistakes assembling the detonating devices, according to information from German federal prosecutors. After placing the suitcases on board, the men immediately left for Lebanon via Istanbul. One of them was sentenced to 12 years in jail in 2007 in Beirut; the other man, who had returned to Germany, was sentenced to life in prison by a Düsseldorf court in 2008 for multiple counts of attempted murder.
A survellance camera shows a suspect at Cologne train station
Mounir al-Motassadeq was a member of the so-called Hamburg Cell involved in the 9/11 attacks on the US. In the first trial ever in connection with the terror attacks, he was charged with assisting the organizers and sentenced to 15 years in prison. A Hamburg court in January 2007 confirmed the initial conviction of membership in a terrorist organization and complicity in murder in 246 cases.
La Belle trial
In 1986, a bomb attack on the West Berlin discotheque La Belle, which was popular with US soldiers, killed three people. The perpetrators were believed to be close to former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. In 1992, there was a first indictment against those believed to be behind the attack, but the trial was dropped a year later. A new trial was launched in 1997, and in November 2001, a Berlin court convicted the four defendants, and sentenced the main defendant, a woman, to 14 years in prison on three counts of murder.
She was the one who planted the bomb, apparently in the belief that it was merely a smoke bomb. The three others were also handed jail sentences for complicity in murder. Germany's Federal Supreme Court argued the convicted men and woman were not really the main perpetrators at all but that Libyan officials had planned the attack and smuggled the explosives to Berlin.
Almost 10 years before the La Belle bombing, in May 1975, Germany saw the first trial against the radical leftist Red Army Faction (RAF) in Stuttgart, which became widely known as the Stammheim trial, named after the prison that housed the group's leading members. Numerous trials against the RAF were to follow. In the Stammheim trial, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Ulrike Meinhof, Holger Meins and Jan-Carl Raspe were charged with multiple murders and attempted murder in 1972 during what the RAF called its May offensive. The court ruled in April 1977, but the ruling never went into effect. In early 1975, Holger Meins went on a hunger strike in prison, and died. Ulrike Meinhof committed suicide in 1976 and in October 1977, the other three also committed suicide in the high security prison.