After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.
Zschäpe admitted to the court that she had once identified “completely with aspects of nationalistic thought.”
But she said that this was no longer the case.
“Today I do not judge people based on their ethnic background or their political views but on how they act,” she said.
While reading her short statement on the 313th day of the trial, Zschäpe spoke very quickly and with a quiet voice and appeared nervous.
She apologized to the victims of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) and their relatives, referring to a statement she had made through her lawyer in December 2015.
In that statement, Zschäpe denied all knowledge of the murders, claiming that the other members of the cell had not informed her of them.
The 41-year-old has been on trial since May 6th 2013, accused of involvement in ten murders over a roughly seven-year period between 2000 and 2007, as well as two bomb attacks in 1999 and 2004.
The majority of the murders were directed against people with immigrant backgrounds and the motives are widely accredited to the group's racist ideology.
Two other NSU members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who are believed to have executed the murders, were found dead in 2011 in an apparent double suicide.
For years, Zschäpe’s legal team instructed her not to speak to the court. But last year her relationship with the lawyers broke down and on a court day in June, she spoke her first word, responding to a question from the judge with the answer "yes".
A new legal team encouraged her to take a different approach, leading to her statement through a lawyer in December 2015.
In her 2015 deposition, Zschäpe insisted she had stayed with Mundlos and Böhnhardt because she feared going to jail and because she was financially and emotionally dependent on them.
She has admitted only to an arson charge, having torched their home after the men died, and of then distributing a DVD in which the group boasted about the killings in a video set to a comical Pink Panther theme.
The NSU are the most notorious murderers in recent German criminal history. They have raised questions about the competence of the German internal intelligence agencies as well as the potential existence of a sophisticated and well-financed neo-Nazi underground scene.