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CRIME

Neo-Nazi supporter suspects released

Germany's federal prosecutor on Tuesday said it had released two suspects arrested in connection with a string of immigrant murders blamed on a neo-Nazi gang.

Neo-Nazi supporter suspects released
Photo: DPA

It marked the second time in less than a week that suspects have been freed in the case of the murders of 10 people, mainly shopkeepers of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2007.

The federal prosecutor’s office, based in Karlsruhe in southwestern Germany, said in a statement that it had freed two men, identified as Carsten S. and Matthias D.

The federal prosecutor said Carsten S. was still strongly suspected, together with another man, of having obtained the weapon used in nine of the killings but was unlikely to flee and had significantly helped the murder investigation.

He had also shunned contact with the far-right since at least 2001, it said.

For Matthias D., who was suspected of having supported the neo-Nazi gang on two counts, the suspicions did not justify his continued detention, it added.

The move follows the freeing on Friday of another suspect, Holger G., with the federal court of justice saying that the case against him was insufficient to justify him remaining in custody.

The suspects were arrested after it emerged in November that a neo-Nazi cell of three calling itself the National Socialist Underground was presumed to be behind the unsolved murders.

The case blew open when two of the members were found dead in an apparent suicide pact and the other, a woman identified as Beate Zschaepe, turned herself in.

AFP/jcw

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CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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