A small group of neo-Nazis gathered outside a Munich court on Tuesday to demand the release of Ralf Wohlleben, an NSU trial suspect accused of being an accessory to murder.
The group of 10 mostly young men and one woman planned their demonstration for what was meant to be the first day of court proceedings following Wohlleben's 40th birthday last Friday, which the suspect celebrated in prison.
In their eyes, the trial of right-wing extremist members of the National Socialist Underground is the "NSU Show." Other than the main accused, Beate Zschäpe, Wohlleben is the only suspect behind bars.
When Wohlleben's supporters reached the courthouse, they were met by police officers and a crowd of around 100 people who were part of a counter-demonstration shouting "Nazis raus!" (Nazis get out!).
Neo-Nazis see Wohlleben as a political prisoner and a victim of the justice system.
Philipp Hasselbach, the regional head of the neo-Nazi party, "Die Rechte," tried to say as much in his speech, but he was drowned out by the counter-demonstrators.
They came equipped with whistles and drums, chanting slogans like "Nazi propaganda has no rights." "You're sympathizing with murderers," one older man on the scene shouted.
Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the NSU trial also observed the events outside the courthouse. Sebastian Scharmer, who represents the daughter of Mehmet Kubasik, who was killed in 2006 in Dortmund, described the neo-Nazi demo as "intolerable." It's a provocation for the family members of the people killed by the NSU, the victims, and those injured in the attacks, he said.
Scharmer said such demos reinforce the theory that the NSU is supported by an extensive network. But 22 months after the start of the trial, the public prosecutor's office remains convinced that Beate Zschäpe and her (now deceased) accomplices, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, are directly responsible for the 10 racist murders committed by the NSU.
After the demonstrators dispersed, those attending the NSU trial waited for the proceedings to be reconvened in the courtroom. Five identically dressed men and women took seats in the first two rows of the gallery. They were all wearing blue t-shirts printed with a big, white "40."
It was their way of wishing Ralf Wohlleben a belated happy birthday. But this neo-Nazi delegation also waited in vain for the man accused of procuring the weapon used in the murders. There was no sign of either Wohlleben or Zschäpe, even though their lawyers were already in the room. Of the accused, only André Eminger took his seat. His twin brother, Maik, was in the gallery, also wearing a blue t-shirt.
More than an hour after the proceedings were due to start, a court official announced that they were canceled because Zschäpe was sick. It's the third time that's happened this year. Last week, proceedings were interrupted after only a few hours for the same reason. But those who came to Munich for their "hero" Ralf Wohlleben are likely most disappointed by the cancellation – the accused never got to see their tasteless birthday greetings.