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Neo-Nazi murders accused Beate Zschaepe denies involvement in killings


Beate Zschaepe is accused of being involved in 10 neo-Nazi murders. (AP)

Beate Zschaepe is accused of being involved in 10 neo-Nazi murders. (AP)

Beate Zschaepe is accused of being involved in 10 neo-Nazi murders. (AP)

A German woman accused of involvement in 10 neo-Nazi murders has broken her silence for the first time in four years.

Beate Zschaepe told a court in Munich that she only learned of each of the slayings after they had taken place.

The 40-year-old said the killings, two bomb attacks and several bank robberies were carried out by her former lovers, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, who died in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011.

Prosecutors allege that the trio formed the National Socialist Underground, which killed eight Turkish men, a Greek and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

"I reject the prosecution's charge that I was a member of a terrorist organisation called NSU," German news agency dpa quoted Zschaepe as saying in the statement read out by her lawyer on the 249th day of her trial.

Zschaepe described how she met Mundlos during her childhood in East Germany in the late 1980s, and how she became part of the far-right scene that emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

The trio went into hiding in 1998. Zschaepe acknowledged that her alleged accomplices told her about the attacks after they happened, and claims she did not report them to police because they threatened to commit suicide if she did so.

"I sincerely apologise to all of the victims and relatives of victims," she said in her statement. "I feel morally guilty for not preventing 10 murders and two bomb attacks."

Zschaepe's lawyer, Mathias Grasel, has asked the court that her lawyers be allowed to answer judges' questions rather than require her to answer them.

Prosecutor Herbert Diemer said the statement should be regarded as "one piece of evidence among many".

Gamze Kubasik, whose father Mehmet was killed in 2006, rejected the apology and said she was disappointed that Zschaepe's statement shed no light on the reasons why her father was killed.

A lawyer for one of the victims' relatives, who are present as co-plaintiffs at the trial, said broader questions raised by the case remain unanswered.

Mehmet Daimaguler noted that for years Germans investigators had discounted the possibility that far-right extremists could be behind the killings, instead pursuing possible links between the victims and drugs gangs.

"Not one of the police officers in the trial has turned around to the victims' families and apologised," he told reporters in Berlin earlier this week.

Zschaepe was arrested in November 2011, shortly after Mundlos' and Boehnhardt's bodies were found in a burned-out camper van in the town of Eisenach following a botched bank robbery.

Apart from Zschaepe, who faces a life sentence if convicted of involvement in the murders, four others are accused of supporting the group. One of them, Ralf Wohlleben, is expected to testify in the coming weeks. The trial is expected to last until the middle of next year.