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Right-Wing Extremism

NSU suspect Zschäpe's bid to dump defense team rejected

The main figure in a trial of suspects accused of a racially motivated killing spree has lost her bid to dump her court-appointed defense lawyers. Beate Zschäpe has been on trial for more than a year.

The presiding judge in the case, Manfred Götzl, ruled on Tuesday that Zschäpe had failed to convince the Munich court that the relationship between her and her three defense lawyers was irreparably shaken, as she had claimed in her application to get them removed.

Judge Götzl did not go into the details of Zschäpe's written explanation of why she wanted her defense team replaced, but he did say that she had been advised by another lawyer in making the application. Zschäpe had surprised the court last Wednesday, when she claimed that she had lost confidence in her defense lawyers.

Zschäpe has been silent throughout the trial, which began in May 2013. The news last Wednesday that she had applied to have her defense team changed led to media speculation that she intended to answer questions in court - against the advice of her lawyers.

After the ruling was handed down, the trial continued, with the 39-year-old Zschäpe remaining silent.

Justice evaded

Zschäpe is accused of helping found a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is thought to have carried out the murders of nine migrant residents - mostly of Turkish origin - and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, the two men believed to have pulled the trigger in the murders, escaped justice by committing suicide as they were being pursued by police following a bank robbery in the eastern city of Eisenach in November 2011.

It was only in the course of the investigation of the bank robbery that police began to link the series of murders with right-wing extremists.

pfd/mkg (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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