BERLIN — Prosecutors asked a German court Tuesday to impose the highest possible sentence against the main defendant in a high-profile neo-Nazi trial, saying she played a key role in the killing of 10 people by a group calling itself the National Socialist Underground.
Federal prosecutor Herbert Diemer called for judges to convict Beate Zschaepe of murder and hand her a life sentence without the usual possibility of parole after 15 years. He also asked for her to be detained beyond her sentence, saying she is a threat to the public.
Zschaepe has been on trial since May 2013. She is accused of aiding two accomplices, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, in the killing of eight Turks, a Greek and a policewoman, and in carrying out two bomb attacks that wounded dozens of people, between 2000 and 2007. Boehnhardt and Mundlos, both core members of the group, died in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011.
In Germany, prosecutors request a sentence before the verdict is passed. The court will next hear pleas from co-plaintiffs and defense lawyers before ruling on the case against Zschaepe and four co-defendants in the coming months.
In his closing plea, Diemer described Zschaepe as an “ice-cold, calculating person” who shared Mundlos and Boehnardt’s far-right ideology and desire to terrorize migrants. He held the 42-year-old defendant equally responsible for the killings even though she never pulled the trigger.
The NSU case exposed numerous errors on the part of German police and intelligence agencies. Authorities spent years investigating the migrant victims’ possible ties to organized crime while ignoring evidence pointing to a far-right motive. Evidence in the case was destroyed or lost shortly after Zschaepe’s arrest, prompting lawyers for victims’ families to accuse authorities of a cover-up.
Diemer asked the court to hand co-defendant Ralf Wohlleben a 12-year-sentence for accessory to murder for allegedly providing the group with a Ceska pistol used in nine of the killings.