Five on trial for planning 'Kristallnacht' neo-Nazi bomb attack on Jewish centre

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The Independent Online

Five German far-right extremists charged with planning a potentially devastating bomb attack on a Jewish community centre and trying to set up a Nazi-style dictatorship went on trial in Munich yesterday, more than a year after a nationwide police investigation led to their arrest.

Five German far-right extremists charged with planning a potentially devastating bomb attack on a Jewish community centre and trying to set up a Nazi-style dictatorship went on trial in Munich yesterday, more than a year after a nationwide police investigation led to their arrest.

Three men and two women, all aged between 18 and 37, were accused of belonging to Aktionsburo Sud, a group within an illegal neo-Nazi terrorist group named Kameradschaft Süd, which planned an explosion during a foundation-laying ceremony in Munich in November last year. Those present included Paul Spiegel, the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews and Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian Prime Minister who was a chancellorship candidate.

State prosecutors also accused the five of attempting "to set up a National Socialist-style dictatorship" in Germany. "The leaders of the group intended to reach their goal by terrorist means," the state prosecutor, Bernd Steudl, told the court yesterday. "They also accepted people would die in these attacks."

The trial, which opened under heavy security, was prompted by a defector from the neo-Nazi scene and the use of a German secret police mole who infiltrated the 50-strong Kameradschaft Sud group.

Last year, police found 14 kilos of explosives, including 1.7 kilos of TNT, in an apartment belonging to one of the group's members. They also unearthed hand grenades, pistols and a "hit list" of targets that included journalists and Franz Maget, one of Bavaria's leading Social Democrat politicians.

Police said they also found evidence which suggested one of the female members had offered to attack the community centre as a suicide bomber, wearing a bomb belt. The strike was intended to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the former Nazi regime's Kristallnacht pogrom against the Jews when hundreds of synagogues and Jewish businesses and homes were plundered and burnt.

Günter Beckstein, the Bavarian Interior Minister, said yesterday: "We have very hard evidence, not least the fact that we found the explosives. This is a new dimension in extreme-right terrorism, and I have not the slightest doubt that the accused will be convicted." But the jailed leader of Kameradschaft Sud, the neo-Nazi Martin Wiese, 28, and several accomplices, are not expected to stand trial until January. Wiese, an east German, is thought to have links to the German far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) which won seats in state elections in Saxony last month. He is accused of complicity in neo-Nazi attacks on foreigners.

Observers said the five who went on trial yesterday were "rank and file" members of the organisation. One of the accused, a 22-year-old who was not named, told the court that Wiese bore chief responsibility for the planned attacks. "The Kameradschaft started off only as a loose grouping," he said. "It was Wiese who turned into a rigidly controlled organisation. He was the one who pulled the strings."

The trials of at least two of the five are expected in closed court sessions, because the accused were juveniles when they allegedly committed their offences. Those in the dock included an 18-year-old woman named Jessica F, who allegedly acted as the group's paramilitary combat trainer. Nineteen- year-old Ramona Sch and Andreas Joachim, 37 were charged with procuring explosives and weapons. Two others, aged 18 and 22, were accused of compiling "hit lists" of targets.

The case is expected to reveal whether the Kameradschaft Sud was linked to the NPD, which the German government tried to ban last year, but failed after objections by the courts.

Prosecutors said Wiese, a leading member of one of more than 100 extreme right-wing or neo-Nazi organisations in Germany, had formed his militant group within his Kameradschaft Sud in late 2002.

German intelligence officers say that in 2002 the country had 10,700 far-right extremists ready to use violence, an increase of 30 per cent from 1998.

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