A leading female member of an alleged neo-Nazi cell, accused of complicity in a series of brutal murders of immigrants in Germany, has begun her trial in Munich.
Beate Zschäpe is accused of involvement in the racist murders of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman, between 2000 and 2007, as well as two bombings in migrant areas of Cologne.
Facing life imprisonment if convicted, she is also accused of involvement in 15 bank robberies carried out by her accomplices Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt, who died in an apparent murder-suicide in November 2011.
The secretive group, National Socialist Underground, had gone apparently unnoticed by authorities for a decade, causing the German government to face serious questions about the risk posed by violent far-right groups, and the failings of the intelligence services.
Four others are also on trial, accused of assisting the group.
Both died after a botched robbery, their bodies found in a burnt-out caravan in Eisenach. Police searching the charred vehicle found the gun that had been used to murder all of the 10 victims.
They also found a DVD which claimed to be introducing the NSU's aims, images of the victims' bodies and a cartoon of the Pink Panther, toting up the number of immigrants murdered, pointing to a flipchart with pictures of those killed.
Police had blamed the "Turkish mafia" and interrogated members of the victims' families.
Zschäpe set fire to the flat she shared with the men in Zwickau and went on the run, but handed herself into the police four days later, saying "I'm the person you are looking for".
Prosecutors allege the group chose "soft targets", the victims owned shops or worked in small business, in order to terrify migrants into leaving the country. They were shot at point-blank range.
She arrived looking defiant, arms folded across her chest at the heavily guarded courtroom, smartly dressed in a white shirt and black suit.
Zschäpe has vowed not to speak during the trial. The proceedings have been delayed for weeks because of police would not guarantee Turkish media a seat in the trial.
Zschäpe’s lawyers have already attempted to postpone or disrupt proceedings, claiming the judge is biased against the defence council.
There were scuffles outside court when she arrived, with many from the German-Turkish community furious at the police at their perceived sluggishness to link the crimes with neo-Nazi activity. The government has launched an enquiry into the failings.
Estranged relatives of Zschäpe are due to testify at the trial, scheduled to last until early next year.Suggest a correction