As German neo-Nazi trial ends, families still seek answers

Published 07-10-2018

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MUNICH (AP) – Families of those killed by a neo-Nazi group that sought to terrorize migrants in Germany called Tuesday for the investigation into the case to continue, even as the trial of its only known surviving member and four supporters draws to a close this week.

Campaigners and lawyers for the relatives claim there is compelling evidence the National Socialist Underground – suspected of 10 killings and at least two bomb attacks – had a wider network of supporters than authorities have acknowledged, including people who were paid informants for the German security services.

The case sent shockwaves through German society at a time when many believed the country was slowly accepting its migrant population. It has gained additional significance with the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party in recent years. The party has taken a strong anti-immigration line, railing against refugees and questioning whether even second- and third-generation immigrants truly belong to German society.

The National Socialist Underground, or NSU, operated in secret for almost 14 years before two of its three core members died in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011. A claim of responsibility subsequently mailed to media by Beate Zschaepe, now on trial in Munich, exposed myriad mistakes by investigators, who had long ruled out a far-right motive and instead suspected the migrants of being involved in organized crime, prompting accusations of institutional racism from human rights groups ,

"The NSU killed my father. The investigators took his honor," said Gamze Kubasik, the daughter of Mehmet Kubasik, a Turkish-born man who was shot dead in his convenience stall in the western city of Dortmund on April 4, 2006.

Seven other men of Turkish origin, a Greek man and a German policewoman were also killed by the group between 2000 and 2007.

Kubasik told reporters that she and other relatives had hoped for "100-percent clarity" when the trial began five years ago.

"Now there's a big hole inside of me," she said.

Among the key questions families had hoped the trial would reveal was why their relatives were targeted, said Abdulkerim Simsek, son of Enver Simsek, who died two days after being shot at his flower stall in Nuremberg on Sept. 9, 2000.

"Why did the killers choose my father," Simsek said. "I can't and won't believe that it was chance."

Lawyers representing the families as plaintiffs in court, as allowed under German law, say the wide geographical distribution of the victims suggests the NSU received information from local contacts in the cities where the killings were carried out.

In one case, an employee of the country's domestic intelligence agency was inside an internet cafe when the owner was gunned down, but claimed not to have seen or heard anything untoward.

After the NSU was exposed, a string of mistakes by Germany's many federal and state-level security agencies also came to light, including the fact that paid informants with codenames such as "Primus," ''Piatto" and "Corelli" were close to the group for years.

Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly apologized to the victims and their families, pledging that authorities would "do everything to investigate the murders, uncover those who helped and back them, and ensure the perpetrators get their just punishment."

Sebastian Scharmer, a law

Kubasik told reporters that she and other relatives had hoped for "100-percent clarity" when the trial began five years ago.

"Now there's a big hole inside of me," she said.

Among the key questions families had hoped the trial would reveal was why their relatives were targeted, said Abdulkerim Simsek, son of Enver Simsek, who died two days after being shot at his flower stall in Nuremberg on Sept. 9, 2000.

"Why did the killers choose my father," Simsek said. "I can't and won't believe that it was chance."

Lawyers representing the families as plaintiffs in court, as allowed under German law, say the wide geographical distribution of the victims suggests the NSU received information from local contacts in the cities where the killings were carried out.

In one case, an employee of the country's domestic intelligence agency was inside an internet cafe when the owner was gunned down, but claimed not to have seen or heard anything untoward.

After the NSU was exposed, a string of mistakes by Germany's many federal and state-level security agencies also came to light, including the fact that paid informants with codenames such as "Primus," ''Piatto" and "Corelli" were close to the group for years.

Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly apologized to the victims and their families, pledging that authorities would "do everything to investigate the murders, uncover those who helped and back them, and ensure the perpetrators get their just punishment."

Sebastian Scharmer, a lawyer for the Kubasik family, accused federal prosecutors of dragging their feet in the investigation, thereby allowing "crude conspiracy theories" to flourish.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors Office, Frauke Koehler, said that nine people were still being investigated, but it's unclear whether any of them will be charged.

Scharmer said he feared a group like the NSU could strike again, despite Zschaepe's likely life sentence Wednesday and the death of her two alleged accomplices, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.

"It co

Among the key questions families had hoped the trial would reveal was why their relatives were targeted, said Abdulkerim Simsek, son of Enver Simsek, who died two days after being shot at his flower stall in Nuremberg on Sept. 9, 2000.

"Why did the killers choose my father," Simsek said. "I can't and won't believe that it was chance."

Lawyers representing the families as plaintiffs in court, as allowed under German law, say the wide geographical distribution of the victims suggests the NSU received information from local contacts in the cities where the killings were carried out.

In one case, an employee of the country's domestic intelligence agency was inside an internet cafe when the owner was gunned down, but claimed not to have seen or heard anything untoward.

After the NSU was exposed, a string of mistakes by Germany's many federal and state-level security agencies also came to light, including the fact that paid informants with codenames such as "Primus," ''Piatto" and "Corelli" were close to the group for years.

Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly apologized to the victims and their families, pledging that authorities would "do everything to investigate the murders, uncover those who helped and back them, and ensure the perpetrators get their just punishment."

Sebastian Scharmer, a lawyer for the Kubasik family, accused federal prosecutors of dragging their feet in the investigation, thereby allowing "crude conspiracy theories" to flourish.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors Office, Frauke Koehler, said that nine people were still being investigated, but it's unclear whether any of them will be charged.

Scharmer said he feared a group like the NSU could strike again, despite Zschaepe's likely life sentence Wednesday and the death of her two alleged accomplices, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.

"It could happen again at any moment, if it's not already happening," he said.

___

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Abdulkerim Simsek, center,son of Enver Simsek who was killed in Nuremberg, his lawyer Seda Basay, left, and Gamze Kubasik, the daughter of Mehmet Kubasik who was killed in Dortmund, sit on the podium on the eve of the verdict against the right-wing terror cell NSU in Munich, southern Germany, Tuesday, July 11, 2018. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this April 6, 2017 file photo participants of the demonstration 'Kein naechstes Opfer!' (lit. 'No other victim!') walk through the inner city of Kassel, Germany, holding posters of people killed by the far-right cell NSU. On April 6, 2006, Halit Yozgat became the 9th victim of the terror group 'National Socialistic Underground' (NSU) when he was killed in his internet cafe. The verdict is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (Swen Pfoertner/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this June 5, 2018 file photo terror suspect Beate Zschaepe, center, stands in the court room in Munich, Germany. The verdict against the only surviving member and other supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, Pool) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this June 1, 2016 file photo terror suspect Beate Zschaepe arrives at the court room in Munich, Germany. The verdict against the only surviving member and supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file) - The Associated Press


The undated wanted photos provided by the German federal criminal office BKA shows from left, members of the far-right NSU cell, from left, Uwe Boehnhardt, Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschaepe. The verdict against Zschaepe, the only surviving member of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. (BKA via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - The undated combo shows undated portraits of the ten people allegedly killed by the NSU, top row from left, Enver Simsek, Abdurrahim Ozudogru, Suleyman Taskopru, Habil Kilic and police office Michele Kiesewetter, and, bottom row from left, Mehmet Turgut, Ismail Yasar, Theodoros Boulgarides, Mehmet Kubasik and Halit Yozgat. The verdict in the trial against the Neo Nazi group is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this June 9, 2004 file photo a policeman takes pictures of a bombed barber's shop in Cologne, western Germany. The verdict against the only surviving member and supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this June 9, 2004 file photo people on the street react at the scene in Cologne, western Germany, after a bomb, allegedly filled with nails, exploded in front of a hairdressers shop injuring at least 17 people. The bombing was allegedly committed by a far right-cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground, or NSU, which allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. The verdict against the only surviving member and supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo) - The Associated Press


Undated photo provided by German Federal Police shows a wanted poster seeking for witnesses and information on the murder of police officer Michele Kiesewetter in April 2007 Heilbronn, southern Germany. The verdict against the only surviving member and supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. (BKA via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this March 2, 2016 file photo defendant Ralf Wohlleben, right, alleged supporter of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground, NSU, arrives at a court room in Munich, Germany. The verdict against the only surviving member and supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007 (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, pool) - The Associated Press


Abdulkerim Simsek, second from left, son of Enver Simsek who was killed in Nuremberg, his lawyer Seda Basay, left, Gamze Kubasik, the daughter of Mehmet Kubasik who was killed in Dortmund and Arif S, third from right, who is a victim of the nail bomb attack in Cologne sit on the podium on the eve of the verdict against the right-wing terror cell NSU in Munich, southern Germany, Tuesday, July 11, 2018. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this July 20, 2015 file photo the lawyers of defendant Beate Zschaepe, alleged member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground, NSU, from left: Wolfgang Stahl, Wolfgang Heer and Anja Sturm leave the court in Munich, Germany. April 2007 Heilbronn, southern Germany. The verdict against the only surviving member and supporters of the far-right cell NSU is expected on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. The cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground allegedly targeted migrants, killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file) - The Associated Press