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Right-Wing Extremism

First defendant questioned as Neo-Nazi NSU trial resumes

The trial surrounding a series of right-wing murders by the neo-Nazi NSU cell has resumed in Munich. Carsten S. was the first defendant to take the stand.

Carsten S. is believed to have provided the gun that the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU) members used to kill 10 people, most of them from Germany's Turkish community.

The 33-year-old made his statement on Tuesday, arriving at court with his face hidden by a hood. He began describing his career as an elected official within far-right German political groups.

Carsten S. told the court he had been seeking to make connections and gain recognition in the far-right scene, which had given him a feeling of belonging. In addition, he said, he had been attracted to another young man who had right-wing views.

The defendant said that his chance to earn the recognition he craved came when he was made the organization's contact with the alleged NSU members who are believed to have carried out the murders.

The Munich trial is the biggest on far-right extremism in Germany since World War II. The main defendant is Beate Zschäpe, who allegedly co-founded the NSU and is the only surviving core member of the group. There are five defendants in total.

Defense complains of bias

Defense lawyers for Zschäpe accused prosecutors, police and politicians on Tuesday of "prejudging" her client and called for the trial to be abandoned. They argued that some documents had not been presented to the court or had been destroyed.

Authorities hold the NSU responsible for the murders of eight Turkish men, a Greek man and a policewoman.

The two other founding members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, were found dead by police in November 2011 - they had killed themselves after a botched bank robbery.

Carsten S - a certified car painter - claims to have left the right-wing scene in 2000 after he came out as being gay, which he said made him an outcast. He has offered to act as the prosecution's key witness and has admitted to having bought the murder weapon and handed it over to another defendant and former member of the far-right NPD party, Ralf Wohlleben.

Contentious start to trial

The trial was adjourned at the end of May after defense lawyers questioned the impartiality of the judges. Zschäpe's lawyers lodged the application after defense lawyers were searched for guns when entering the court while prosecutors were not.

German authorities have been under fire over the investigation of the neo-Nazi cell. As well as some investigative irregularities including the destruction of potentially pertinent paperwork after the NSU was uncovered, investigators first suggested that the killings were instead organized crime among immigrant communities. The federal head of the domestic intelligence agency resigned in the aftermath, along with some of his regional colleagues.

ng, rc/msh (dpa, AFP)