MUNICH – A court in Germany closed its doors to the public Thursday following testimony from a former neo-Nazi of a plot to “topple” the German government.
The testimony before a Munich court came from a female defendant facing terrorism charges in connection with a plot to detonate a bomb during cornerstone-laying ceremonies for a Munich synagogue last year.
The defendant, who was a minor at the time of last year’s bomb plot, told the court that the group’s neo-Nazi ringleader Martin Wiese had envisioned the bombing as only a prelude to “a plan to topple the government in Berlin”.
She admitted having been aware of the bomb plot, but told the court she had since then come to the realisation that the neo-Nazi movement “is completely wrong”.
Bowing to a defence petition, Munich Superior Court ordered the proceedings held behind closed doors owing to the fact that several of the defendants were minors when arrested.
Marking the first time that suspected neo-Nazis have been charged with terrorism in Germany, defence attorneys for five defendants told the court their clients would “offer full and explicit testimony” during the trial.
The five accused – three women and two men – are alleged members of the extremist rightwing group “Southern Comrades” which had planned to set off a bomb during cornerstone-laying ceremonies for the new Jewish centre on November 9, 2003.
The trial is the first of two in the case. The main accused, the group’s neo-Nazi ringleader Wiese, goes on trial in January 2005, along with four co-defendants.
Coming amid concern over rightwing extremists in Germany, prosecutors in the trial plan to try to prove that the accused, who had obtained 1.7 kilogrammes of bomb-making TNT for the attack, were also planning other bombings in the Bavarian capital.
According to German Chief Federal Prosecutor General Kay Nehm, the evidence shows the group were preparing to set off a bomb during cornerstone-laying ceremonies for a Jewish cultural centre near Munich’s Jakobsplatz square last November 9.
The group bought explosives in Poland and tested them in small blasts in remote areas, officials say. Police seized a total of 14 kilogrammes of explosives in September, including the 1.4 kilogrammes of TNT high explosive. The group had intended to hide their bomb in a sewer pipe under the site.
In mid-August 2003, the plot was cancelled after several members of the group were questioned by police. Police arrested the suspects in September and discovered the explosives.
The date of the synagogue foundation ceremony – 9 November – is full of symbolism: It would have been 65 years after Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, when Nazi thugs vandalized and burned synagogues all over Germany and their policy of persecution of Jews was turned into the naked violence of the Holocaust.
Today, most German Jewish community centres are under almost permanent police protection for fear of attacks by Islamists or neo- Nazis, with roads outside closed to traffic and the compounds walled off.
The Munich trial opens after far-right political parties made strong gains in two regional elections last month.
In eastern German Saxony state, the anti-immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD) won 9 percent, while in Brandenburg state the German People’s Union (DVU) garnered 6 percent.