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Murder Trial Of Alleged Neo-Nazi Has Germans On Edge

The trial in Munich of an alleged neo-Nazi woman accused as an accomplice in a string of murders of mostly ethnic Turks is, as The Associated Press writes, "forcing Germans to confront painful truths about racism and the broader treatment of immigrants in society."

Last month, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported on the impending trial of Beate Zschaepe, 38, set to begin Monday after being delayed last month. Zschaepe is charged with complicity in the murders of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

Zschaepe is the sole survivor of the group blamed for the killings — the self-styled National Socialist Underground. Four men alleged to have helped the killers in various ways will also be tried, according to the AP. Zschaepe is also accused of involvement in at least two bombings and 15 bank robberies carried out by her accomplices Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt, who died in an apparent murder-suicide two years ago, the news agency says.

As Soraya reported last month:

"For years, German authorities failed to see a link between the crimes, even though the same gun was used in all of the shootings. They also rejected any link to right-wing extremism.

"German authorities instead blamed the victims, falsely accusing the non-German ones of ties to criminal and drug gangs. Police searched at least one home of a victim's family with drug-sniffing dogs."

Gurcan Daimaguler, a Berlin lawyer of Turkish origin who represents some of the victims' families, told the AP that there have been "only a handful of trials in recent German history that have had a similar effect."

Daimaguler cited court cases against members of the far-left Red Army Faction terrorist group starting in the 1970s, and the trials of East German border guards who fired at people trying to flee to West Germany during the Cold War.

"These were all trials that went beyond the courtroom," he said, noting that each of them prompted periods of soul-searching that in some cases continue until today.

The Associated Press says:

"Public debate has focused on how Germany's well-funded security services could have been so catastrophically wrong with their long-held theory that the killings were the work of immigrant criminal gangs.

"Several high-ranking security officials including the head of Germany's domestic spy service have already resigned over blunders made during their watch."

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