World Bulletin / News Desk
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert rebuffed criticism directed at Merkel for not honoring the promise she made four years ago to resolve the murders.
“It is still a task for the politicians, the judiciary and the people in Germany to do everything to ensure that the NSU serial murders would never happen again. This task would not end with the end of the trial,” Seibert said.
The shadowy National Socialist Underground (NSU) killed 10 people, including eight Turkish and one Greek immigrant as well as a police officer, between 2000 and 2007, but the murders had long remained unresolved.
After a five-year-long trial, a Munich court Wednesday handed a life sentence to the main suspect Beate Zschaepe and gave lighter sentences to four other suspects, who provided support to the terrorist group.
The families of neo-Nazi murder victims expressed disappointment with the verdict and said the trial has left many key questions unanswered.
They also accused authorities of trying to cover up the neo-Nazi group’s possible ties to informants and officials working for the domestic intelligence agency.
The German public first learned of the group's existence and its role in the murders in 2011, when two members -- Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bohnhardt -- died after an unsuccessful bank robbery and police found guns and extreme-right literature in their apartment.
During the five-year trial, Beate Zschaepe, the only surviving member of the group, declined to give any insight about the NSU and tried to lay the blame on her two deceased colleagues.
The scandal surrounding the neo-Nazi NSU has led to criticism of police and security agencies, and accusations of institutional racism.
Until 2011, Germany’s police and intelligence services ruled out any racial motive for the murders and instead treated immigrant families as suspects, questioning them over alleged connections with mafia groups and drug traffickers.
While recent revelations have shown that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency had dozens of informants who had contacts with the NSU suspects, officials insisted that they had no prior information about the NSU terror cell and its suspected role in the killings.
However, authorities in the central German state of Hesse have recently decided to keep several documents secret for 120 years, prompting further speculations about the NSU’s possible ties.