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NSU trial - Beate Zschäpe with her court-appointed counsel in Munich
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel

Lawyers call for main suspect's release in neo-Nazi trial

June 5, 2018

Public defenders say Beate Zschäpe, the main suspect in the high-profile NSU trial, should be set free. The lead defender accused the court and German authorities of a miscarriage of justice.


During final sentencing pleas on Tuesday, court-appointed defenders for accused right-wing terrorist Beate Zschäpe called for her immediate release from prison. Zschäpe is accused of being a member of the right-wing terror group National Socialist Underground (NSU) and thus of having been a co-conspirator in a series of robberies, bombings and 10 murders across Germany, nine of which were racially motivated.

Speaking on behalf of the court-appointed defense team, which Zschäpe herself disavowed yet the court still recognizes as her counsel, Wolfgang Heer called the charges against her "monstrous." Demanding the "immediate release" of the defendant, Heer said: "Ms Zschäpe is not a terrorist, not a murderer and not an assassin. She should be acquitted of all crimes against the state."

No kitchen table mastermind

Heer accused state prosecutors and police of having committed "grave procedural breaches," pointing to incidents that occurred shortly after her arrest in November 2011. He also accused presiding judge Manfred Götzel of "willfully deceiving" the defense.

Heer claimed that prosecutors had no evidence Zschäpe was directly involved in murders allegedly carried out by Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, with whom she lived for years and during which time the crimes took place. Heer said Zschäpe had been nowhere near the scenes of any of those crimes and that she did not plan them "from the kitchen table."

Read more: What is the NSU trial? 

Heer said the only crime his client could be found guilty of was arson, for having torched the apartment she shared with Böhnhardt and Mundlos in the eastern German city of Zwickau after the two killed themselves two hours away in Eisenach as police closed in. Zschäpe has admitted to setting the apartment on fire. Arson carries a minimum sentence of 12 months and a maximum of 10 years.

Time served

Heer's call for Zschäpe's release is based on the fact that she has already spent six years and seven months behind bars and has exhibited good behavior during that time.

The defense's sentencing plea is the last to be delivered to the court and signals the likely end to the long-running trial, which began in May 2013. Prosecutors have called for the court to sentence Zschäpe to life in prison for her role in the crimes as well as her membership in a terrorist organization. Zschäpe's additional defense team, which the court does not recognize as her legal counsel, called for her to be given a maximum sentence of 10 years.

js/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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