German anti-racism rally staged ahead of right-wing terror trial

April 16, 2013 at 12:05 AM
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MUNICH, Germany, April 15 (UPI) -- Thousands of anti-racism demonstrators marched in Munich, Germany, last weekend ahead of a murder trial for five suspected neo-Nazi group members.

About 5,000 people rallied in front of Bavaria's State Court of Appeals Saturday to denounce "Nazi terror, state and everyday racism" in the run-up to Wednesday's scheduled start of the high-profile murder trial of neo-Nazi suspect Beate Zschape and four alleged supporters of the terrorist group National Socialist Underground, Deutsche-Welle reported.

The five are to be tried for the deaths of 10 people, including eight Turkish immigrant small business owners, a Greek counterpart and a German policewoman, over a period from 2000-06.

The march lasted nearly 5 hours and its route included historic Munich squares that have been the scenes of past neo-Nazi attacks, including Konigsplatz and Odeonsplatz. It passed many Turkish- and Greek-owned businesses near Munich's central train station, the German broadcaster reported.

Prominently displayed were photographs of the 10 victims and signs criticizing the German authorities' handling of right-wing violence in the country.

Alliance Against Nazi Terror and Racism spokesman Bernd Kaminski told Deutsche-Welle that his group sponsored the rally, not only to show solidarity with the victims of right-wing terrorism, but also denounce Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Kaminski said the agency should be abolished after "tacitly allowing" the NSU's right-wing terrorists to operate.

The demonstrators referenced that for years the German authorities almost exclusively searched for the killers among the victims' own circles of friends and family members, then theorized Turkish crime syndicates seeking retribution against the shop owners were responsible.

All the while, prosecutors now say, three founding members of the NSU were planning and carrying out the killings.

Two of them -- Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bohnhardt -- killed themselves in 2011 as police were closing in on their van after a botched bank robbery. A third, Zschape, surrendered after their deaths.

Evidence recovered from a house where the three lived together included a video in which the makers claimed responsibility for the series of slayings.

Zschape and four alleged NSU supporters are to face trial in the Bavarian court after a dispute over whether Turkish media would be allowed into the courtroom to cover the proceedings.

The regional judges had originally ruled that all 50 media seats would be reserved for German outlets, bringing protests from 55 German members of Parliament as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told Turkish Ambassador to Germany Huseyin Avni Karslioglu last week he had urged the Munich court to find "an acceptable solution" that would reserve seats for Turkish reporters at the trial, the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reported.

Germany's highest court, the German Constitutional Court, ruled Friday in favor of a complaint filed by the Turkish daily Sabah, instructing the Munich court to provide "an appropriate number of seats to representatives of the foreign media with a special connection to the victims of the accused."

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