Probe into neo-Nazi murders hits more snags | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.09.2012
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Probe into neo-Nazi murders hits more snags

Missing files, ignored clues, dubious police informants - German police have a lot to answer for over the NSU murders. An investigation committee is trying to shed light on the scandal, but time is running short.

Fresh revelations have once again put an embarrassing spotlight on the German police: an alleged accomplice of the neo-Nazi terror cell National Socialist Underground (NSU) apparently also for several years worked as an informant for Berlin's State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA). Initially the only news trickling through was that the authorities were tipped off as early as 2002 on the possible whereabouts of the terrorist trio; however, they apparently failed to pursue this line of enquiry. Shortly after it transpired that the LKA informant even supplied the group with explosives.

Clemens Binninger (CDU), a member of the committee investigating the NSU murders, said the new revelations would be scrutinized carefully. Only after this had been clarified could the commission look into the failings of the Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD), as planned. A short time earlier the Berlin police set up a special commission to investigate why the tip-off in 2002 was not pursued. Berlin's interior senator, Frank Henkel (CDU), also wanted to appoint a special prosecutor.

Berlin’s interior senator Frank Henkel

Berlin’s interior senator Frank Henkel withheld information

Lack of consultations facilitated Neo-Nazi murders

The terror cell NSU carried out a string of murders in Germany over a period of 13 years - virtually untraced. They are accused of killing nine migrants and one police officer and carrying out two bomb attacks between 2000 and 2007. The group's cover was eventually blown at the end of 2011. The members Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt committed suicide. The third member, Beate Zschäpe, surrendered to the police and is awaiting trial.

Since then, the investagtion committee set up by the German parliament has discovered numerous flaws in the police investigations. The scandal of the informant with close NSU ties is the most recent revelation. Thomas S. was a police informant of the Berlin LKA for more than ten years. Germany's internal security agency was never briefed on this cooperation, according to Spiegel Online. It would appear that the Thuringian investigators, who had been hunting the trio since 1998, also never received the 2002 tip-off on the terrorists' whereabouts.

Gradual trickle of information

The office of Germany's federal public prosecutor did not find out about the role of Thomas S. as an informer until they launched preliminary proceedings against him over the possible involvement in the NSU attacks. These proceedings kicked off in January 2012, and it took two months for the office to receive this crucial data. A little earlier this piece of information also reached Berlin's interior senator, Frank Henkel, who is now facing mounting pressure because it was never passed on to the investigation committee.

The Neo-Nazi trio of the NSU: Mundlos, Zschäpe, Böhnhardt (from left)

The Neo-Nazi trio of the NSU: Mundlos, Zschäpe, Böhnhardt (from left)

There were further irritations over Henkel's explanation. Henkel said the federal public prosecution office urged him to keep quiet, but the office rejects this claim. According to Spiegel, there is a document in which Berlin's vice-police president, Margarete Koppers, asks for information to be withheld for tactical reasons relating to the investigation. She has since confirmed the existence of this document.

The timing is bad for the investigation committee which was finally going to examine the role of Germany's Military Counter-Intelligence Service. The service concealed the fact that there already had been contact with the right-wing extremist Uwe Mundlos as early as 1995. This revelation also raised the pressure on German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière, whose ministry failed to pass on relevant data to the investigation committee.

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