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Right-Wing Extremism

Judges dismiss bias accusations in NSU case

The court handling a highly anticipated neo-Nazi case has rejected accusations of bias against half of the presiding judges. The complaints from the defense shut down the proceedings on its first day.

Munich's Upper Regional Court ruled on Thursday that neither the presiding chief judge, nor two other judges on its six-member judicial team had shown bias in the case of four alleged members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

There was no "reasonable doubt of the judges' impartiality," the court's ruling said.

Defense lawyers for Ralf Wohlleben - one of the alleged accomplices - filed the complaints against half of the judicial panel on Monday, the opening day of the highly-anticipated trial.

The chief judge, Manfred Götzl (picture above, second from the left), came under scrutiny for suspicion of sharing information about the trial prior to its commencement. The president of the Upper Regional Court, Karl Huber, had spoken publicly about renovations to the courtroom, according to Wohlleben's defense team. They argued the Munich court president must have received that information from the chief judge.

However, the upper regional court called the claim "unfounded," citing a formal statement from Götzl prior to the opening of the trial confirming that he had not shared any information.

The court also rejected a similar petition filed on behalf of the main defendant, Beate Zschäpe. Her attorneys claimed the court had treated them with bias by ordering the defense to be searched before each court appearance.

The trial began on Monday in Munich in what is Germany's most high-profile trial in years. Petitions filed by the defense teams have delayed the proceedings until next week.

Germans hope the outcome will explain how the far-right extremist group operated for so many years undetected by authorities.

Between 2000 and 2007, the group is alleged to have murdered 10 people. Eight of the murder victims were Turkish immigrants. One was Greek and the final victim was a German policewoman. Authorities originally said the deaths were mafia-related.

A botched robbery in November 2011 eventually led the police to the discovery of the group. Two of Zschäpe's suspected accomplices committed suicide before police could apprehend them. An apartment believed to have been shared by all three alleged members of the underground cell was torched. Several days later, Zschäpe turned herself over to the authorities in the eastern city of Jena.

kms/hc (dpa, Reuters, ARD)