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CRIME

Neo-Nazi terror gang trauma still raw a year on

A year after the neo-Nazi terrorist cell believed to be responsible for nine racial murders and the killing of a police woman was revealed, a leading German official admitted trust in the authorities was seriously damaged.

Neo-Nazi terror gang trauma still raw a year on
Photo: DPA

“I can understand that for many citizens – especially for the victims’ families – trust in the country’s security framework and its officials is badly damaged,” Hans-Georg Maaßen, the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

Maaßen said it was his job to regain that trust, but he also defended officials.

“Unfortunately public criticism of constitutional protection doesn’t take into consideration that without the good work in the last 10 years in Germany of those protecting the constitution there would have been terrorist attacks that surely would have cost people their lives,” he said.

He mentioned several steps officials have taken, including the establishment last December of a cooperative centre to protect against right extremists and the opening in September of a radical right database.

The comments come a year after a neo-Nazi terrorist gang likely behind a seven-year murder spree targeting immigrants was uncovered. While Germany has sought to mend security flaws, trauma still reverberates.

Feelings of shock and anger ran deep in Germany after details began to emerge on November 4 last year of the cold-blooded killings of nine men of Turkish and Greek origin and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

With a Turkish community of around three million people, Germany was jolted into an all-out security reform, especially of its domestic intelligence service, which came under fire for a botched probe that led to top-flight resignations.

Authorities have faced intense pressure to explain how the extremist gang was able to operate with impunity for 11 years, particularly as domestic intelligence services had informants close to the trio themselves.

Kenan Kolat, president of the Turkish Community of Germany, has said that one year on from the discovery of the extremist cell, he is “very disappointed” and “bitter” about the government’s response.

“The political class doesn’t want to recognise that there is an enormous problem of racism in Germany,” he told reporters this week, saying more lessons needed to be drawn from the affair.

He called for a broad social debate on what he termed “institutional racism”.

The neo-Nazi gang calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) only came to light when two members, Uwe Böhnhardt, 34, and Uwe Mundlos, 38,

were found dead in an apparent suicide pact and a now 37-year-old woman Beate Zschäpe turned herself in.

She is still being held in custody and is expected to be charged with murder soon. Around 10 people are suspected of links to the trio. While a network of supporters spread across the country seems to have been proven, their multiple links to security services who failed to act on intelligence has kept a parliamentary investigative commission busy.

Head of that commission Sebastian Edathy, has highlighted “a mentality problem within the security services”, including the police, and suggested more rigorous recruitment of officials.

Its hotly anticipated report is expected by the end of the year.

Leading investigators into the murders initially assumed that criminal elements from the Turkish community were behind the rash of killings. Suspicion also fell on the victims’ relatives, a point Chancellor Angela Merkel called “particularly tormenting” at a memorial service in February.

The killings were “a disgrace for our country”, Merkel said, vowing to do everything possible to shed light on them and bring those responsible and their supporters to justice.

In July, the head of the domestic intelligence agency, Heinz Fromm, stepped down after it emerged that the agency had destroyed files with information about the extremist group several days after the NSU came to light.

“We have to repair the security apparatus to restore confidence. Personnel changes will not be enough,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said, quoted on Thursday by the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

The scandal claimed two other top officials in quick succession – the head of the secret service bureau in the eastern state of Saxony resigned, while the leader of Thuringia state’s bureau was dismissed.

“We were promised a lot, also by Chancellor Merkel. Then we heard that files were destroyed and we have the feeling that we’re not getting any closer to the bottom of this,” Gamze Kubasik, whose father Mehmet was killed in 2006, told Friday’s Tagesspiegel newspaper.

“We feel deceived and I am angry and sad.”

AFP/mw

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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