Düsseldorf neo-Nazi bomb attack defendant acquitted

A German man accused of bombing a Düsseldorf train station 18 years ago has been cleared of all charges. The attack, which injured 10 immigrants from eastern Europe, sent shockwaves through Germany.

A German court on Tuesday acquitted Ralf S. of 12 counts of attempted murder for a bombing targeting Jewish immigrants at a Düsseldorf train station in July 2000. 

Politics | 16.06.2017

The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for the 52-year-old, an alleged neo-Nazi, but the Düsseldorf District Court found there was insufficient evidence for a conviction. Judges had already released the defendant from pre-trial detention in May, citing unreliable witness testimony.

Read moreA guide to Germany's far-right groups

Key events in the case

-     A pipe bomb containing about 200 grams (7 ounces) of TNT exploded at Düsseldorf's Wehrhahn train station on the afternoon of July 27, 2000.

-     Ten people, most of them Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, were badly injured, including a pregnant woman who lost her baby and her foot.

-     Police investigating the crime received more than 900 tips from the public and testimony from more than 1,000 people, but were unable to successfully prosecute any suspects.

- Officers questioned Ralf S. for several hours in the wake of the bombing and placed him under surveillance, but they failed to amass enough evidence to arrest him.

- In June 2014, a prison inmate told police that S. — who was briefly in custody over an unrelated offense — had boasted about carrying out the attack, using a racial slur against immigrants.

- S. was arrested in early 2017.

Read moreGerman far-right extremists have been keeping 'lists of enemies'

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

10 victims, 10 tragedies

Nine of the 10 victims were of foreign heritage, but they had all made Germany their home when they were killed. The 10th victim was a German police officer. Every one of them was shot in cold blood.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Enver Simsek

On September 9, 2000, the florist Enver Simsek, pictured with his wife, was shot eight times. The 38-year-old father of two sold flowers near a small parking lot in the southern city of Nuremberg. Simsek, who migrated from Turkey to Germany in 1986, is believed to be the first murder victim in the NSU series of racially motivated killings.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Abdurrahim Ozudogru

Also in Nuremberg, Turkish-born tailor Abdurrahim Ozudogru was shot on June 13, 2001 in his alteration shop. He was 49 years old with a daughter who was 19 at the time of his murder.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Suleyman Taskopru

Later that month, on June 27, 2001 Suleyman Taskopru was shot dead in his father's fruit and vegetable shop in Hamburg. He was 31 years old and had a three-year-old daughter.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Habil Kilic

On August 29 of the same year, 38-year-old Habil Kilic, who was also a fruit and vegetable grocer, was killed in his shop in Munich. Like Taskopru, he was shot in the head. His wife and his 12-year-old daughter later left Germany.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Mehmet Turgut

Mehmet Turgut lived in Hamburg, but was visiting a friend in the eastern German city of Rostock and helping out at a Doner kebab fast food restaurant when he was shot on February 25, 2004. He was killed by three bullets to the head.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Ismail Yasar

Ismail Yasar was shot five times in his doner kebab restaurant in Nuremberg on June 9, 2005. A customer found him behind the counter. The 50-year-old had three children.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Theodoros Boulgarides

Just a few days later, on June 15, 2005, Theodoros Boulgarides was shot dead in Munich in his lock and key service shop. He was the only victim with Greek heritage. The 41-year-old father of two was the NSU's seventh murder victim.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Mehmet Kubasik

On a busy street at noon on April 4, 2006 in the western city of Dortmund, Turkish-born Mehmet Kubasik was killed by several shots to the head in his small convenience store. The 39-year-old left behind a wife and three children.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Halit Yozgat

In Kassel on April 6, 2006, Halit Yozgat was also shot in the head. He was killed in the internet cafe he ran with his father. Twenty-one years old, Turkish-born but with a German passport, Yozgat was taking night school classes to graduate from high school.

The victims of the neo-Nazi NSU murder spree

Michele Kiesewetter

Michele Kiesewetter, a 22-year-old police officer, was shot dead on April 25, 2007 in the southwestern city of Heilbronn. She was the NSU's 10th and final murder victim.

'Serious error'

Ahead of the verdict, the prosecution said an acquittal would amount to "the most serious legal error" in Düsseldorf's history.

During the trial, they had argued that Ralf S. was undoubtedly guilty, citing several admissions he'd made in recorded phone calls. 

The defense had dismissed witness testimony against their client as unreliable, and stressed that there was no evidence placing him at the crime scene. Ralf S. may be a "chatterbox and a stupid gossip," they said, but that didn't make him a dangerous extremist.  

Read moreStudy doubts police will to fight extremism 

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

Enver Şimşek, September 9, 2000, Nuremberg

Enver Şimşek, aged 38, was the fist victim of the far-right terrorist group Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU). He was found on the side of an arterial road in Nuremberg with several bullets in his body. He died two days later. Regina Schmeken started photographing the sites of the NSU crimes at the beginning of 2013 and returned to them several times until 2016.

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

Süleyman Taşköprü, June 27, 2001, Hamburg

The grocer Süleyman Taşköprü, 31, was found here by his father, lying in a pool of blood. He died shortly afterwards. Photographer Regina Schmeken said her camera felt drawn to the ground when visiting the sites. The floor covering is still the one that was there at the time of the crime, 14 years ago.

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

Mehmet Turgut, February 25, 2004, Rostock

This is where 25-year-old Mehmet Turgut died. He was a temporary worker at a döner kebab stand and was shot by the NSU murderers. Through her exhibition project, Regina Schmeken sought to remember the victims through the crime scenes, by exploring the fact that they at first sight no longer offer any trace of the violent crimes that occurred there.

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

22 people injured, June 9, 2004, Cologne

A nail bomb which exploded on Keuptstrasse in Cologne injured 22 people - many of them seriouly. The street in the Mülheim district is known for its many Turkish and Kurdish shops. The police believed for a long time that the attack was related to a family feud.

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

Theodoros Boulgarides, June 15, 2005, Munich

The seventh NSU murder victim was Theodoros Boulgarides. The 41-year-old Greek man was shot three times in the head. Regina Schmeken didn't leave out manifestations of daily life in her pictures, as she wanted to demonstrate that these murders happened in animated areas.

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

Halit Yozgat, April 6, 2006, Kassel

The 21-year-old Halit Yozgat, born in Kassel, ran an internet café in this house, until the NSU shot him twice. Like the other NSU victims, he was found lying on the ground, executed by the far-right terrorists. He died in the arms of his father.

The NSU crime scenes: a photo exhibition

Michèle Kiesewetter, April 25, 2007, Heilbronn

The police officer Michèle Kiesewetter, aged 22, was shot in her patrol car in Heilbronn. She was the 10th and last murder victim of the NSU terrorist group. The memorial exhibition pursues discussions on the events and coexistence with migrant communities.

Why is this significant? The Düsseldorf bombing sent shockwaves across Germany, mainly because it appeared to be a right-wing extremist attack targeting Jews, and came around the same time as a number of attacks against foreigners. The failure of the justice system to solve the case led to questions about possible flaws in the initial investigation — especially in the light of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) murders, which showed that police and intelligence agencies avoided pursuing the lines of inquiry that led to Germany's far-right scene. The neo-Nazi NSU was responsible for 10 murders, two bomb attacks and several bank robberies between 2000 and 2007.

Read moreNeo-Nazi NSU member Beate Zschäpe found guilty of murder

Who is Ralf S.? The defendant was a former soldier who traded in army goods and military memorabilia. He was also a known gun fanatic, who was said to patrol his neighborhood in eastern Düsseldorf dressed in combat gear and accompanied by his dog. Many of those who knew Ralf S. at the time of the attack said they believed he was capable of carrying it out.

Read moreGermany's ever-growing right-wing extremist scene becomes more violent

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DW News | 11.07.2018

Five-year neo-Nazi trial in Germany ends in guilty verdict

What was the evidence? Prosecutors argued that Ralf S. rented an apartment where he supposedly constructed the bomb and a remote detonator. The suspect was said to have boasted "I'm a tough nut" to a female friend after he was questioned. According to a report in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger newspaper, he had called another well-known neo-Nazi in the area, Sven Skoda, to request the latter supply him with an alibi.

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DocFilm | 14.07.2018

Germany's right-wing terror network

nm/rt (AFP, dpa)

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