April 26, 2018 / 3:52 PM / a year ago

Lawyers for German neo-Nazi murder suspect seek conviction on lesser charges

MUNICH (Reuters) - Lawyers for a suspected member of a neo-Nazi gang on trial for involvement in the murders of 10 people more than a decade ago urged a German court on Thursday to convict her of the lesser charges of arson and robbery.

Defendant Beate Zschaepe (L), accused of helping to found a neo-Nazi cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU), arrives for her trial at a courtroom in Munich, Germany January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Prosecutors say 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.

Zschaepe, 43, has denied taking part in the murders with two friends but has said, through her lawyer, she felt moral guilt for not stopping them.

Her defence lawyers, Hermann Borchert and Mathias Grasel, urged the higher regional court in Munich on Thursday to only convict Zschaepe of serious arson and being an accomplice in several robberies, and hand down a sentence of up to 10 years.

As well as being charged with complicity in the murders, she is also on trial over two bombings in Cologne and 15 bank robberies.

Federal prosecutors have called for Zschaepe to be given a life sentence and believes she is jointly responsible for the murders because she helped the men behind the scenes even though she was not present at any of the crime scenes.

Her lawyers said it could not be proven that she was either complicit in or an accomplice to the murders committed by Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. They killed themselves in 2011 when police discovered the gang by chance.

“All these crimes were committed by Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos alone,” Grasel said, adding Zschaepe had never belonged to a terrorist organisation. She never fired a shot and knew nothing of her friends’ plans, he said.

Grasel stressed that Zschaepe, as the last survivor, should not be made responsible for the crimes of the others. Sharing a home, paying bills for the group or procuring mobile phones for it does not make her an accomplice in the murders, he said.

Zschaepe has been in custody for several years.

The court is hearing the defence’s closing statements in the case after more than four years of evidence.

The NSU attacks were the most violent by a guerrilla group in Germany since the end of the far-left Red Army Faction’s two-decade spree in 1991, in which 34 people are estimated to have been killed.

Writing by Alexander Huebner and Michelle Martin; Editing by Alison Williams

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