The trial will soon begin for a series of murders driven by right-wing extremism in Germany. The country's largest trial related to extremist violence in decades is expected to have broad significance.
The National Socialist Underground (NSU) had gone undetected for a decade until its discovery forced Germany to acknowledge its dangerous neo-Nazi fringe and staggering intelligence failings. The trial in Munich will focus on 38-year-old Beate Zschäpe, charged with complicity in the murder of eight Turks, a Greek and a policewoman between 2000-2007, as well as two bombings in immigrant areas of Cologne and 15 bank robberies.
"With its historical, social and political dimensions the NSU trial is one of the most significant of postwar German history," lawyers for the family of the first victim, the flower seller Enver Simsek, said in a statement.
Originally scheduled to start in April, the trial will finally begin on Monday after Germany's top court ruled that the Munich court had to provide seats for foreign journalists, none of whom had initially received a place. Four seats have now gone to the Turkish press and one to Greek media.
Prosecutors say the gang chose immigrants running small businesses or shops as easy, vulnerable targets. Some of the victims' relatives came under suspicion by law enforcement before authorities acknowledged a far-right motive.
"All the relatives have the huge problem that they were never treated as victims," lawyer Angelika Lex said. "During the investigations they were either considered suspects, or as relatives of criminals."
Authorities first became aware of the cell in November 2011, when Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, the two men believed to have founded the NSU with Zschäpe, committed suicide after a botched bank robbery and set their car on fire in the eastern town of Eisenach. In the vehicle, police found the gun used to murder all 10 victims as well as a DVD claiming responsibility for the killings.
In the video, which features victims' bodies, a cartoon Pink Panther keeps a tally of the dead. Four others charged with assisting the NSU will stand trial with Zschäpe.
After the suicides, authorities believe that Zschäpe set fire to a flat she shared with the men in Zwickau, 180 km (110 miles) away and went on the run. Four days later, she turned herself in to police in her hometown, Jena.
The trial will give victims' families their first up-close look at Zschäpe, dubbed "Nazi bride" in the media. Hearings could go into early 2014. Witnesses scheduled to appear include Zschäpe's relatives and the parents of Mundlos and Böhnhardt.
mkg/kms (AFP, Reuters)