Germany's neo-Nazi NSU trial verdict sparks protests, calls for investigation
Germans took to the streets after the verdict delivery in the National Socialist Underground trial to demand that investigations continue into the series of right-wing extremist murders — and into state failures.
"Not the last word" was motto for numerous protests held across Germany on Wednesday in reaction to the verdict in a neo-Nazi terror case, one of the most important trials in the country's history.
The slogan echoed the sentiments of victims' relatives, who have said the verdict brings them little closure since state and media failures over the investigations into the murders and trial have yet to be clarified.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Munich court found Beate Zschäpe, a member of the right-wing extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU), guilty of 10 counts of murder and also convicted other co-defendants.
Protesters nationwide demanded that investigations into the racially motivated murders committed by the NSU between 2000 and 2007 continue despite the delivery of the verdict.
"The NSU was not a trio," some 1,000 protesters in Berlin chanted, referring to the frequent claim that the terror group was not an isolated terror cell made up of Zschäpe and two now-dead members, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, but rather part of a broader right-wing extremist network.
The demonstrations, which were organized by left-wing groups and victims rights' organizations, also called on society to continue examining its own complicity in the murders.
"The social conditions that made the NSU possible continue today," the Alliance Against Nazi Terror & Racism wrote on its event website. The group organized the protest in Munich, the site of the trial, and drew around 3,000 people.
All but one of the NSU's 10 murder victims had foreign heritage, and from the very first killings, state authorities, media and intelligence officials dismissed the possibility of racist motivations and attributed the killings to migrant drug rings.
"Under no circumstance should the [NSU's] case file be declared closed and attention focused elsewhere," said Robin Steinbrügge, a victims rights' activist in Hamburg, where 1,000 people gathered on the streets.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The NSU's 2001 murder of Süleyman Tasköprü took place in the northern port city.
Protests also took place in numerous other German cities: Around 600 people gathered in Kiel, 300 in Bremen, 700 in Frankfurt and 200 in Rostock.
Religious leaders speak out
Representatives from religious organizations in Germany also weighed in on Wednesday's verdict.
The NSU trial must not be seen as having successfully ended Germany's fight against right-wing extremist terror, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said.
The Central Council of Muslims said that the 5-year-long court case did not adequately clarify who was involved in the murders and to what extent.
"This failure is a great burden for the victims' relatives and social peace in Germany," it said.