A German judge handed down a life sentence Wednesday to a neo-Nazi woman who killed 10 people, participated in two bombings and committed other crimes.
Munich Court Judge Manfred Gotzl found Beate Zschape guilty of killing 10 people from 2000 to 2007 and committing several robberies and attempted murders.
Gotzl said Zschape and two now-dead associates carried out “ideologically-motivated attacks” and planned killing foreign citizens. He also said she played a “special role” in creating a “harmless legend” for the outside world as other members carried out the attacks.
The judge attributed Zschape with serious culpability, making it likely she’ll serve more than the 15 years, the time parole usually comes up for life sentences.
Zschape, 43, is the only surviving member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground.
Defense attorney Wolfgang Heer said he will appeal, calling her conviction “legally flawed.”
The ruling marks the end of one of the most complex trials of post-war Germany, spanning five years.
Its dragged on since 2013, when a detective, identified only as Ellen H., said the NSU plotted to kill Gerhard Schroder, the country’s chancellor in 2002.
Other accomplices sentenced Wednesday include Ralf Wohlleban, who was given 10 years for providing the guns in nine of Zschape’s killings. Conspirator Andre Eminger received two and-a-half years.
“If you look at the sentences for Zschape’s co-conspirators, this is an unbelievably soft verdict,” Dirk Laabs, co-author of a book about the group said. “It’s hard to image people accused of supplying weapons and logistics for terrorist activity would have got off so lightly if this had been a trial about an Islamist cell.”
Mehmet Daimaguler, an attorney representing victims’ relatives at trial, said he will call for more investigation into the NSU terrorist network due to German authorities bias enabling the terror cell.
“The people who are dead are dead because of the neo-Nazis’ hate and racism,” Daimaguler told Deutsche Welle last week. “But they’re also dead because of a racist investigation. They’re dead because the state, in the form of the intelligence agencies, helped to develop this movement, supported it financially, gave it legal protection. Without thinking of the consequences.”
A parliamentary report in 2013 found German police prejudice allowed the neo-Nazi group to carry out repeated, violent attacks against immigrants. The 1,357-page report called for changes, including more training and recruitment of ethnic minorities.
By Sommer Brokaw