Female neo-Nazi gang member is jailed for life for ten racially motivated murders in Germany
Beate Zschäpe was accused of unleashing terror and murder as part of a the rightwing terror cell National Socialist Underground [NSU]
Zschäpe, 43, on Wednesday was jailed for life without parole in Munich, Germany
She was found guilty of shooting and killing nine Greek and Turkish immigrants and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007
Zschäpe carried out the murders with her lovers, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos – both men killed themselves in 2011
She claims she never participated in the killings and has launched and appeal
Terrorist: Beate Zschäpe, 43, will spend the rest of her life in jail after being found guilty of 10 counts of murder for the fatal shootings of nine Greek and Turkish immigrants and a policewoman
The only surviving member of a German neo-Nazi cell behind a shocking series of racist murders was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison, to bring an end to one of the longest and politically charged trials of the post-war period.
Beate Zschäpe was accused of unleashing a reign of terror against the immigrant community in the Bavarian region as a member of a rightwing terror cell.
Zschäpe, 43, was found guilty of 10 counts of murder in deadly shootings of nine Turkish and Greek-born immigrants as well as of a German policewoman.
The murders were carried out by a trio known as the National Socialist Underground NSU.
Although life imprisonment in Germany typically means 15 years behind bars because prisoners are often released for good conduct, Zschäpe would not be eligible for parole as judge Manfred Goetzl imposed the maximum sentence due to the ‘exceptional severity of the crime’.
Zschäpe [right] prosecutors said carried out the killings alongside lovers Uwe Boehnhardt [left] and Uwe Mundlos [centre]. The men killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact in 2011, after a failed robbery
Beate Zschäpe arrives court for her sentencing hearing in Munich, Germany on Wednesday
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas vowed to combat such neo-Nazi hate by upholding Germany’s commitment to tolerance and rejecting extremism.
‘We not only stand up to racist violence with the strength of the law.
‘Intolerance and hate must be met with the diversity of our open societies,’ he wrote on Twitter, adding that ‘the victims remain unforgotten’.
Police say the other two members of the NSU – Zschaepe’s former lovers Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt – carried out their killing spree from 2000 to 2007, before they died in an apparent suicide pact following a bungled bank heist in 2011.
Mundlos ‘hated the multicultural melting pot in Germany,’ said Goetzl, noting that he also developed an anti-Semitic video game in which players shot Jews.
‘The accused Zschaepe took on the far-right views of her environment,’ said the judge, adding that she formed a firm bond with racist friends.
Rightwing zealot Beate Zschäpe [right], sitting with her defense attorneys during her trial for a chain of murders against Turkish and Greek immigrants in Munich, Germany
Victim impact: An emotional Elif Kubasik, the wife of shooting victim Mehmet Kubasik, grabs her face in court ahead of the verdict against Zschäpe
For years police told families that their relatives were the victims of gang violence, before it emerged they were killed by neo-Nazis.
Among them were four men also convicted Wednesday for sympathizing with the NSU or supplying the murder weapon, cash, identity papers and logistical aid during their years in hiding.|Ralf Wohlleben, a former member of the far-right NPD party, was found guilty of complicity in nine counts of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Carsten Schulze was also convicted of complicity but got three years under the juvenile penal code. Holger Gerlach received three years for backing a terrorist organization.
Beate Zschäpe [left] and her fellow rightwing extremists and lovers, Uwe Boehnhardt [center],and Uwe Mundlos [right], shot to death nine Greek and Turkish immigrants and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007
Unrepentant neo-Nazi Andre Eminger was found not guilty of complicity but sentenced to two and a half years for backing a terrorist organization, a verdict that was greeted with applause from neo-Nazi supporters in the courtroom.
It was Zschaepe who revealed, after the two Uwes died, the scope of the NSU’s bloody crimes to a shocked German public, by releasing a macabre confession video set to a Pink Panther cartoon theme.
It was only then that Germany learnt that the series of killings, long blamed by police on immigrant crime gangs, had in fact been committed by organized fascists from the country’s formerly communist east.
Elated: Members of the Turkish community protest outside court after neo-Nazi Beate Zschaepe was sentenced to life behind bars in Munich, Germany.
The case deeply shocked a nation that has struggled to atone for its dark Nazi past.
Zschaepe has insisted she learnt of the murders after they were committed. She admitted only to helping plot some of the NSU’s 15 bank robberies and setting fire to their shared home after the two men died.
The woman who grew up in the extremist skinhead subculture of post-reunification east Germany, also told the court that its racist ideology has ‘no meaning for me anymore’.
Her defense immediately filed an appeal following Wednesday’s verdict.
The Munich court case that opened in May 2013 ended after hearing some 800 witnesses and experts, with 93 bereaved relatives as co-plaintiffs.
According to the indictment, the Federal Prosecutors insisted that Beate Zschäpe knew about the individual murders but was not directly involved in all of them. That means she did not shoot the victims or watch the murders. However, evidence recovered including cell phone records confirm that she involved in the planning and actively monitored the shootings one on June 15, 2005, as well as, the shootings in Nuremberg on June 9, 2005.
Justice at last: Turkish protesters in Munich, Germany unfurl their national flag outside the courthouse after Beate Zschaepe was jailed for life without parole
It was Germany’s biggest trial since the 1960s Auschwitz hearings against perpetrators of the Holocaust, and the 1970s proceedings against the left-wing extremist Baader-Meinhof gang.
But victims’ relatives say many questions remain unanswered.
In 2012, Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged that Germany would ‘do everything we can to clear up the murders and uncover the accomplices and backers and bring all perpetrators to justice’.
Beate Zschäpe shortly before she was arrested [left] and during her trial [right]
Accomplices: Uwe Boehnhardt and Beate Zschäpe
The third leg – Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe
The same year, then head of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency, Heinz Fromm, was forced to resign when it emerged his service had shredded files related to the NSU suspects.
As several official committees sought to understand how the killers went undetected for so long, the chairman of the last parliamentary inquest, Uli Groetsch, said it was clear that the three were ‘supported by a broad network of neo-Nazis’.
And victims’ relatives believe that many militant Nazis remain in hiding.
‘I’m 100 percent sure that there are still accomplices out there,’ said Abdulkerim Simsek, the son of the first NSU murder victim, Enver Simsek.Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish community association, also told news agency DPA that their ‘trust in public institutions has been deeply shaken’ and can only be restored if ‘other proceedings were held in relation to the NSU case’.
During the trial, the prosecutors revealed that the other terrorists Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt died during a botched bank heist in 2011.
Their motorhome with the license plate “V-MK 1121” used by the two men in the course of a bank robbery in Eisenach was discovered by a police patrol after a witness had previously alerted the police. When police officers approached the camper, one of the suspects shot at the police with a submachine gun.
However, the weapon jammed after firing only a few shots leaving Mundlos and Böhnhardt with no real chance of escape.
In the end Uwe Mundlos killed his friend Böhnhardt with a Winchester pumpgun before he turned the weapon on himself.