Beate Zschäpe, 38, sat silent and motionless as prosecutors accused her of helping plan the hate crimes of the self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU), covering their tracks, handling finances and providing a safe retreat in their shared home.
When asked to confirm her name, Zschäpe, wearing a grey business blazer, stayed quiet, and her lawyer Wolfgang Heer told the Munich court: “My client will not give any information regarding her person.”
Zschäpe was a conspirator in the racially motivated murders in which her two late NSU companions Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos gunned down their arbitrarily chosen victims “assassination-style”, said prosecutor Herbert Diemer.
He accused Zschäpe of having been a “founding member of a cell that fully shared national-socialist and racist ideas and whose only aim was to kill people”.
The prosecutor detailed each killing in which the gunmen between 2000 and 2007 allegedly used a Ceska pistol to shoot dead eight ethnic Turks and one Greek business owner across the country and also attacked a police patrol, killing a female police officer.
“The defendant Zschäpe, who took part in the planning and preparations, had the duty during the crimes to routinely create covers for the travel movements of Böhnhardt and Mundlos and to provide a safe refuge” and the “veneer of legality”, Diemer told the court.
He charged that the NSU trio, including Zschäpe, also shared responsibility for two bomb attacks targeting Cologne migrant neighbourhoods which wounded at least 23 people, and 15 bank robberies they carried out to finance themselves.
Zschäpe was also accused of arson for torching their shared home in eastern Germany in November 2011 after Böhnhardt and Mundlos died in an apparent murder-suicide while hiding in their getaway vehicle, a rented camper van, after a botched bank robbery.
It was only after the men’s deaths that authorities – who had long suspected immigrant gangsters were behind the shootings – stumbled upon what they now consider a far-right terrorist organisation.
Four male co-defendants had helped the shooters by variously procuring weapons, giving them documents and renting vehicles, said the prosecutor. They have been identified only as Carsten S., Holger G. and Andre E. as well as Ralf Wohlleben.
Earlier in the day, the hearing was dominated by arguments over the way that the hearing should proceed and where.
A co-plaintiff has also demanded that a Christian cross be taken off the wall of the courtroom, citing the separation of Church and state.
One of Zschäpe’s lawyers, Heer, demanded that the trial be halted and moved to a larger room than the chamber that has only 100 seats for the public, half of them reserved for journalists. However, the chief judge rejected the request.
An exasperated Diemer had said that “the creativity of the defence appears to be limitless”, after the lawyers for the defendants had also on May 6 accused the chief judge of being biased, sparking an eight-day delay.
The hearing – held under tight security, with almost 400 police stationed around the building – is one of Germany’s highest-profile trials in decades.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the killings a “disgrace” for Germany and apologised to the victims’ relatives, some of whom police had initially treated as suspects.
The trial is expected to last about two years.