German prosecutors said they brought murder charges Thursday against the woman believed to be at the heart of a neo-Nazi cell accused of a seven-year killing spree with 10 victims.
In connection to a case that stunned Germany one year ago, federal prosecutor Harald Range said his office had finally filed the charges against Beate Zschaepe, 37, and four other alleged accomplices with a court in the southern city of Munich.
Ms. Zschaepe is suspected of involvement in 10 murders, including the killing of nine men of Turkish or Greek origin across Germany between 2000 and 2006 and a German policewoman in 2007, as well as 15 armed robberies, arson and attempted murder.
She is the sole survivor of the far-right trio of militants that called itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which prosecutors have classed as a terrorist organisation.
Two of the other four suspects are accused of accessory to murder, and the others of lesser charges related to crimes allegedly committed by the NSU.
“The NSU members saw themselves as a unified commando of killers which zealously carried out its murderous attacks with racist and subversive motives,” Range said in a statement, citing the nearly 500-page indictment.
He said they carried out “execution-style murders” to spread fear in the immigrant community and convince foreigners to leave Germany.
The Munich superior regional court said earlier the charges would be presented to defence attorneys in the coming days to give them an opportunity to respond.
The court will then decide whether the case can proceed. Many of the victims lived in the southern state of Bavaria, which is why the trial will likely take place in its capital Munich.
Ms. Zschaepe and her alleged accomplices, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, who were reportedly linked in a love triangle, are believed to have gone underground in 1998 after police discovered a bomb-making operation they ran.
They allegedly earned their living for 14 years with bank robberies, and the two men finally shot themselves in a suicide pact following a heist on November 4, 2011, according to prosecutors.
Ms. Zschaepe is then believed to have set the flat they shared ablaze. Four days later, she turned herself in to police.
Three weeks after that, authorities detained a further suspect, Ralf Wohlleben, who was among the other four men named in the case the prosecutors presented.
He is believed to have helped the NSU trio obtain a gun used to shoot the nine immigrant victims.
He and a suspect named as Carsten Schultze are accused of accessory to murder.
The third, Andre Eminger, is believed to have been involved in a bombing and the fourth, Holger Gerlach, is accused of three counts of abetting the NSU.
The four men are in their 30s.
Germany, which has a Turkish community of around three million people and is still haunted by its Nazi past, was jolted into a major security reform by the case, especially of its domestic intelligence service, which came under fire for a botched probe that led to top-flight resignations.
Police long focused their investigation on Germany’s Turkish community and faced accusations of turning a blind eye to right-wing extremists when the NSU came to light.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich on Thursday told a parliamentary committee probing the crimes that the NSU scandal demanded a “new decisiveness” in confronting far-right violence.
“The shock runs deep – not just among the public but also among politicians and the security services,” he said, expressing hope the trial would shed more light on the neo-Nazi militant scene.
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