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Neo-Nazi terror suspect denies guilt for murders

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Neo-Nazi terror suspect denies guilt for murders
NSU terror suspect Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA.
15:06 CET+01:00
The last living member of the neo-Nazi NSU terror cell, Beate Zschäpe apologized in a statement in court to the victims of the group's murders - but explained why she was not legally guilty.

Zschäpe had her lawyer read a statement she wrote to the court on Wednesday to express her apologies to the ten victims and their families, but also to distance herself from the murders themselves.

She insisted that she had only heard heard about the violence after the fact from fellow National Socialist Underground (NSU) members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, and that she had been horrified. But she said she did not want to betray her friends.

"They were both my family," her statement said.

Zschäpe is accused of involvement in ten murders over a seven-year period between 2000 and 2007, as well as two bomb attacks in 1999 and 2004. The group is also implicated in a series of bank robberies.

The majority of the murders were directed against people with immigrant backgrounds and the motives are widely accredited to the group's racist ideology.

But a series of blunders by police meant that the dots were not joined until years later, after two members were caught fleeing a bank robbery in 2011.

Those two members, Mundlos and Böhnhardt, are believed to have executed the murders, but were found dead in an apparent double suicide after the 2011 robbery.

Zschäpe is thus believed to be the last remaining member.

Zschäpe feels 'morally guilty', but not legally

The 40-year-old told of her time as a teenager in Jena, Thuringia, problems with her mother, how she turned to the extreme right-wing scene, and fell in love with both Mundlos and Böhnhardt.

She insisted that although she was part of the group, she was did not participate in plotting its attacks and therefore should not be held legally responsible.

"I feel that I am morally guilty because I was not able to prevent ten murders and two bomb attacks from happening," Zschäpe wrote.

She explained that the trio lived in fear that they would be discovered by police, but decided to rob banks when money started to run out.

It was the last bank robbery attempt in 2011 that ultimately brought police onto their trail, leading Mundlos and Böhnhardt to kill themselves - and Zschäpe to turn herself in.

SEE ALSO: A timeline of the NSU trial

Zschäpe denied culpability in the robberies, though she admitted that she accepted and benefited from them. Still, she said that she had not felt the same way about the murders.

She said she only found out about the first murder victim - a Turkish flower shop owner in 2000 - three months after the killing and she was shocked. Zschäpe said she still does not know the motive behind that murder.
 
"It wasn't that they needed me. I needed them."
 
When she told the two others that she wanted to go to the police, but they threatened that they would kill themselves, she explained.

Each of the following murders and attacks were only brought to her attention after the fact, she said.

After the second and third murders in 2001, she said she had resigned herself to staying with them.

"I knew that I was living with two people who did not value human life," she explained, adding that though she was appalled by their acts, she still felt drawn to Mundlos and Böhnhardt, accepting her fate.

"It wasn't that they needed me. I needed them."

Murder of police officer finally explained

Because most of the murder victims were ethnic Turks and one was Greek, police had understood the motivation behind the attacks to be the group's anti-immigrant sentiments. But one still remained unclear. 

In 2007, policewoman Michèle Kiesewetter and her patrol partner were shot. Kiesewetter died of the gunshot wound while the partner survived.

Zschäpe gave a reason for the first time on Wednesday for the attack on police: Mundlos and Böhnhardt wanted to take officers' guns. 

"I remember that for hours, I had spoken with them to stop them from committing the murders," she explained, again insisting that she did not report them because of their threat to kill themselves.

Zschäpe has remained silent throughout the more than two-year trial, only once breaking the silence to answer "yes" to whether she understood the proceedings.

She has also been involved in a number of spats with her lawyers.

Note: This article has been corrected to clarify that Zschäpe's lawyer read the statement for her. The Local regrets the error.

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