Karlsruhe (dpa) – NSU terrorist Beate Zschäpe does not escape the maximum penalty. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) upheld the conviction of the 46-year-old as an accomplice in the racially motivated series of murders on the “National Socialist Underground”.

This leaves the penalty imposed in 2018 by the Munich Higher Regional Court: life imprisonment if the guilt is particularly serious. As the BGH announced on Thursday, the convictions of NSU supporters Ralf Wohlleben and Holger G. are also final. The revisions in the case of co-defendant André E. are to be negotiated and decided in December in Karlsruhe. (Az. 3 STR 441/20)

The chief criminal judges ruled on Zschäpe’s appeal on August 12 by written decision without a hearing. The decisions about Wohlleben and G. were not justified. This concludes the NSU proceeding as far as the central people are concerned – in the tenth year after the suicide of Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt and the blowing up of the trio.

14 years underground

Zschäpe had lived underground with Mundlos and Böhnhardt for almost 14 years. During this time, the right-wing terrorists of the NSU spread undetected fear and horror: Between September 2000 and April 2007, the men murdered eight small entrepreneurs of Turkish descent and a small business owner of Greek descent, as well as a policewoman. Who was behind the series of murders, attacks and robberies was only known when Mundlos and Böhnhardt committed suicide in 2011 to avoid arrest. Zschäpe set fire to the shared apartment, sent a confession video and turned himself in.

The main question was whether the Higher Regional Court of Munich has rightly made Zschäpe jointly responsible for all these acts as a multiple murderer. Because there’s no evidence that she was at any of the crime scenes herself.

Months of investigation of the OLG judgment

The 3rd Criminal Senate of the BGH had been investigating the OLG verdict for months – and as a result had “no legal concerns”. Zschäpe is said to have had “both mastery of the crime and sufficient interest in the crime”. Their role, mainly in the vicinity of the shared apartment, cannot be compared to “being in a mess”. But Zschäpe had planned all the deeds, covered the absence of her accomplices and was ready for the publication of the important confession video. “It therefore fulfilled an essential function on which the success of the overall project depended,” according to the 31-page decision.

The judges only deleted a single sentence. This has no influence on the punishment, it also remains with the gravity of the guilt determined by the OLG. This means parole after 15 years is legally possible, but practically impossible. Zschäpe is currently in custody in the Chemnitz correctional facility, where she was transferred from Munich-Stadelheim in February 2019. She should now be transferred to a prison ward.

Zschäpe defender wants to investigate legal action

Zschäpe defender Wolfgang Heer criticized the decision. Your lawyer, Mathias Grasel, said: “I will discuss the court’s ruling with my client as soon as possible and we will consider together whether further legal action should be taken against it.” Now it would only be conceivable to turn to the Federal Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights. Neither should be too promising.

Lawyer Seda Basay-Yildiz, who was representing victims’ relatives in the Munich trial, told the dpa that, thank goodness, the verdict was now final. Her customers are also relieved.

Wohlleben and Holger G. had since been released because of the lengthy procedure. The federal prosecutor’s office must now determine whether and for how long they still have to be detained. The OLG had sentenced Wohlleben to ten years in prison for complicity in murder, G. to three years in prison for supporting a terrorist organization.

Negotiation with André E. early December

It was foreseeable that André E.’s case would be heard at the BGH. Because his conviction to a surprisingly lenient sentence is the only one being challenged by the federal prosecutor. The trial is scheduled for December 2 and the verdict will be handed down on December 15. E. had obtained several train tickets for the NSU terrorists and rented a mobile home with which they drove to Cologne for a bomb attack. The OLG had only sentenced him to two and a half years in prison for supporting a terrorist organization.

A fifth conviction was long overdue. Carsten S. had withdrawn his appeal and has been free since mid-2020 after the rest of his three-year youth sentence was postponed for complicity. He had confessed to giving the NSU the gun that later committed nine murders.

The gigantic trial in Munich ended on July 11, 2018 after more than five years and more than 400 days of negotiations. The verdict, which has been available in writing since the end of April 2020, is 3,025 pages long.

Further clarification is required

Politicians expressed their relief at the BGH decision, but also called for further clarification. SPD leader Norbert Walter-Borjans told the dpa: “The relatives of the NSU murder victims will certainly help confirm the verdict against one of those primarily responsible for finding their inner peace.”

The FDP politician Konstantin Kuhle demanded that the security authorities make right-wing extremist networks more publicly known. Irene Mihalic, domestic policy spokeswoman for the faction of the Greens, said: “To this day we do not know what the support structure behind the NSU terror trio looked like.” Left MP Martina Renner said the nine other accused supporters of the NSU should now be charged.