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Court Cases

Zschäpe may face fresh attempted murder charge in NSU case

A major daily newspaper has reported that German public prosecutors are considering filing another attempted murder charge against the alleged co-founder of the neo-Nazi NSU cell, Beate Zschäpe.

The Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung daily reported on Tuesday that prosecutors might charge Beate Zschäpe with attempted murder in connection with a 1999 attempted bombing in Nuremberg. The incident came to light last week during the trial against Zschäpe and four co-defendants accused of complicity in the crimes committed by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) group.

Markus Köhler, a spokesman for the public prosecutor's office, told Süddeutsche that an official investigation had been launched on the basis that the bomb was designed to kill at least one person.

The pipe bomb, disguised as a flashlight, was laid in a pub run by a man from Turkey. A member of the cleaning staff discovered it and suffered comparatively mild injuries because the bomb did not explode and shatter as it was designed to.

"Had the pipe exploded, as the attackers planned, then the victim would have had no hands left, and perhaps no eyes," the Süddeutsche quoted an unnamed "expert familiar with the 1999 case" as saying.

A loquacious witness

The case came to light via co-defendant turned star witness Carsten S. last week. The 33-year-old, who has agreed to testify on most matters comparatively freely, told the Munich court last week that he had heard of NSU plans for the 1999 attack. He said that "the two Uwes" - a reference to now-deceased alleged NSU co-founders Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt - had told him about their "flashlight," and that he later suspected they might have meant a bomb.

The defendant, a former member of the far-right scene who says he left in part because of his desire to live openly as a homosexual, also seemed to suggest in his testimony that Zschäpe was either partially aware or even unaware of the attack, saying the two Uwes asked him not to tell her anything.

Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving alleged co-founder of the NSU group, already faces charges tied to 10 murders and 15 bank robberies, among other instances.

Police uncovered the NSU partly by chance late in 2011 after a botched bank robbery. Investigators found Mundlos and Böhnhardt dead, having apparently committed suicide. They also found the service weapon of a German policewoman, one of the NSU's ten alleged murder victims, at the scene - a key clue to unraveling the neo-Nazi group. The cell is also accused of killing eight men of Turkish origin and a Greek man between 2000 and 2009.

Subsequent evidence of investigative mistakes and irregularities with the NSU case cost several top German officials, including the head of the federal domestic intelligence agency, their jobs.

The ongoing NSU trial reopened in Munich on Tuesday.

msh/jm (AFP, dpa)