The Munich court probing a neo-Nazi murder series has heard testimony on the first killing in 2000. A passing motorist said he saw two men dash from a roadside stall where flower seller Enver Simsek was fatally shot.
Germany's trial of alleged neo-Nazi accomplices begun in May switched on Wednesday to hearing witnesses on nine murders of small-business proprietors of mostly Turkish origin and a policewoman.
The first murder, when Enver Simsek (shown above left) was fatally shot in Nuremburg in 2000, was followed by nine further killings until 2007. Only in late 2011 did German authorities attribute the spree to far-right extremists and were criticized for following false theories.
On trial before Munich's upper regional court is the gunmen's alleged accomplice Beate Zschäpe and four other co-defendants.
Mundlos and Böhnhardt, who allegedly carried out the execution-style NSU killings motivated by xenophobia, died in an apparent murder-suicide in November 2011 in the eastern German city of Zwickau after a botched bank robbery.
Zschäpe is also accused of setting fire to a Zwickau apartment that she shared with the pair before handing herself into police. She has refused to testify at the Munich trial.
The witness, an electrical engineer, told the court on Wednesday that on September 9, 2000, he heard numerous metallic bangs while driving past a roadside stall and then saw two young men in cycling clothing dash from a van.
"The cyclist outfit was conspicuous, because I did not see any cycles," the witness said. They had "very short hair and one of them wore a baseball cap, but I don't know for sure," the witness added.
Prosecutors say nine shots were fired from a Ceska pistol at the 38-year-old Enver Simsek inside his van by Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt.
The two deceased members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) then took photos of the severely wounded Simsek, slid the van door shut, and disappeared, prosecutors say.
Simzek, who suffered severe head wounds, died two days later in hospital.
Two police officers had told the court on Tuesday that when they examined the white Mercedes van marked "Simsek Flowers" its bloodied interior was strewn with bullet casings. Outside, stood flowers bunched in tubs and a colorful sun umbrella.
Trial to run far into 2014
On Tuesday, Munich's upper regional court said its proceedings would extend until December 2014. Initially, it had been due to finish next January.
Prosecutors plan to call more than 600 witnesses at the trial.
Early last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met some 40 relatives of the victims of the neo-Nazi terror group. In February 2012, she had called the NSU murder series a national "disgrace" and had appealed to victims' relatives for forgiveness.
The discovery of the NSU in late 2011 embarrassed German police and intelligence services. It exposed deep investigative flaws and raised uncomfortable questions about how the cell went undetected for years in a country proud of owning up to its Nazi past.
ipj/kms (dpa, AFP, AP)