German Court Rejects Bias Charge in Neo-Nazi Trial

Trial Is One of Most Highly Anticipated in Years

By Reuters

Published May 10, 2013.
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A German court rejected on Friday an accusation of bias from a defendant in a case involving neo-Nazi racist murders, removing a potential legal hurdle to resumption of the trial.

The trial of Beate Zschaepe and four others opened last Monday in Munich but was quickly adjourned after defence lawyers delivered motions accusing chief judge Manfred Goetzl of bias. The proceeding is due to resume next Tuesday.

The trial, one of Germany’s most anticipated in decades, had already suffered delay before the accusations of judicial bias due to a dispute over media coverage of the case.

A lawyer for Ralf Wohlleben, one of the defendants, told Reuters the court had rejected his motion alleging bias. Among other issues, Wohlleben had complained that, unlike Zschaepe, he had been denied a third court-appointed lawyer for the trial.

A court spokeswoman declined to comment on Wohlleben’s motion but confirmed that the court had still to decide on a second complaint, filed by Zschaepe, alleging bias.

Zschaepe, 38, is accused of helping to found the neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), and of complicity in the murders of 10 people, mostly ethnic Turks, from 2000 to 2007.

Wohlleben and three other men face lesser charges of assisting the NSU.

“I expect Zschaepe’s motion will also be rejected as groundless,” Mehmet Guercan, lawyer for the families of two of the murder victims, told Spiegel Online.

“I hope that we can finally begin the real trial next week with the reading out of the indictment,” he said.

The murders by the far-right cell went undetected for more than a decade. They came to light only by chance in late 2011, shocking Germans and exposing deep lapses in the country’s intelligence establishment.

Zschaepe, whose two presumed male accomplices in the killing spree committed suicide in 2011, faces life imprisonment if found guilty.


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