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Germany: Murder trial adjourned as judges consider defense complaints

7th May 2013

The trial of the main suspect and accomplices accused in the murders of 10 mainly foreign residents of Germany is to continue next week, after its opening session was adjourned. The case has drawn worldwide attention.


Munich’s Upper Regional Court adjourned Monday’s session of the trial of Beate Zschäpe (pictured above) and her alleged accomplices following a day defense lawyers used to lay out objections on matters of procedure.


Presiding Judge Manfred Götzl announced at the end of the session that hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday had been cancelled to give his judiciary team time to consider two complaints presented by the defense.


The lawyers representing Zschäpe rejected Götzl as the presiding judge, arguing that he was biased in the case. Specifically they argued it was unfair that defense lawyers were forced to submit to searches for weapons before entering the courtroom, while their counterparts on the side of the prosecution were not.

Lawyers for one of her alleged accomplices, Ralf Wohlleben complained that an application for a third court-appointed defense lawyer, made ahead of the start of the trial had been rejected. Judge Götzl said a decision on both applications would be made before the trial resumes next Tuesday.


Zschäpe, 38, is believed to be one of the founding members of the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU), a group that had gone undetected by authorities for more than a decade.


The group first became known in November 2011 after the suicides of two of Zschäpe’s suspected accomplices, and the torching of an apartment believed to be shared by all three alleged members of the cell. A few days after the fire, Zschäpe turned herself in to police in the eastern city of Jena.


Accreditation controversy

The case, involving the killings of eight Turkish small business owners, as well as a Greek and a German police woman between 2000 and 2007 is one of the country’s most high-profile trials in years, attracting interest from all over the world.


The trial also became notable for a media accreditation debacle that cast a negative light on Munich’s Upper Regional Court. The initial accreditations, given on a first come, first served basis, gave 50 journalists access to cover the trial, but none went to foreign journalists since none had applied early enough.


Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that a new accreditation process should take place, giving interested parties among the Turkish and Greek media in particular a chance to secure a spot. This also delayed the trial by three weeks. The second accreditation process was also plagued by problems but has not caused a delay.


The trial is expected to stretch into 2014, with over 600 witnesses scheduled to testify.


Parallel to the trial, a parliamentary inquiry has been launched into the apparent lack of cooperation among law enforcement agencies that allowed the NSU to remain undetected for so long.


pfd/ccp (Reuters, dpa, AFP)


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