German court sentences neo-Nazi murderer to life in prison

Beate Zschaepe: German woman guilty of 10 neo-Nazi murders

Scharmer said he feared a group like the NSU could strike again, despite the life sentence Zschaepe could receive Wednesday and the deaths of her two alleged accomplices, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. Prosecutors have asked for her to be detained beyond her sentence, saying she poses a threat to the public.

Campaigners and lawyers for the victims' relatives have accused German authorities of covering up the size and influence of the NSU, which operated in secret for nearly 14 years.

While an earlier team of defenders had pleaded for the acquittal of their client, her counsel recommended a sentence of less than ten years.

German authorities blame the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground for a string of violent crimes including the racially motivated killing of nine men, the killing of a policewoman, two bombings and more than a dozen bank robberies over a period of nearly 14 years.

Prosecutors accuse Zschaepe of being an active NSU member who helped the two men by plotting the killings and two bomb attacks, as well as handling finances and providing a safe haven in their shared home. Beate Zschaepe was part of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose members killed eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman over seven years from 2000.

They have called for the maximum punishment for Zschaepe - a life term that translates to 15 years behind bars but can be extended if the convict is considered an ongoing threat to society. The case has gained additional significance with the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party in recent years.

"Zschaepe took on the far-right views of her environment", said the judge, adding that she formed a firm bond with racist friends. The group of judges ruling on the case said she bore "particularly heavy guilt".

December 2015 - Zschaepe's lawyers read a statement on her behalf, in which she admits to knowing of the bank robberies and to setting fire to the hideout in Zwickau.

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Zschaepe has been on trial since 2013 and spoke only twice during her five years in court according to NBC News. Also, the families of the victims have been bedeviled by facing prejudices and baseless allegations since the initial phase of the case.

"That's true, too, for immigrants who want to protect themselves psychologically from the knowledge that they live in a country which couldn't protect them", she told The Associated Press. Instead, police focused on whether the victims had ties to organized crime - a line of investigation for which there was never any evidence.

Germany's interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said after the verdict that the National Socialist Underground's crimes "should be a lesson and a task for us to fight far-right extremism in Germany with all means necessary".

Families of the victims said Tuesday that the suspicion directed toward their loved-ones shook their faith in the German justice system.

While the Munich trial has focused on the NSU "trio", the chairman of the last parliamentary inquest, Uli Groetsch, said it was clear that the three were "supported by a broad network of neo-Nazis".

John, the ombudswoman, said there are encouraging signs that police and intelligence agencies are beginning to listen to minorities and make an effort to recruit them, ending the long-maintained illusion that Germany isn't a country of immigrants.

The files from the mega-trial now top 300,000 pages, but the victims' relatives say many questions remain unanswered, including how the killers chose their victims.

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