Intelligence chief admits errors in neo-Nazi probe
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R), Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Interior Minister Friedrich commemorate the victims of the neo-Nazi murders in this 2011 photo. EPA photoThe head of Germany’s domestic spy agency admitted July 5 that his office had made mistakes that allowed a small neo-Nazi group to operate under the radar on a seven-year spree, in which they are suspected of killing eight Turks and two others.
Heinz Fromm, who has already applied for early retirement over the case, told a special parliamentary commission there were serious shortcomings in the investigation. “This is a serious defeat for the German security services,” the Associated Press quoted Fromm, who steps down at the end of this month, as saying.
The National Socialist Underground (NSU) is suspected of killing eight Turkish men and a Greek between 2000 and 2006 and a policewoman in 2007 in attacks across the country. For years, authorities suspected organized crime rather than racist violence.
Fromm said information had not been shared well enough between the state and federal offices of his agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. He also said the group’s activities did not fit traditional patterns of right-wing violence, and his office failed to see their attacks for what they were. “Ten executions of unsuspecting and defenseless people over a period of seven years – that is unprecedented,” Fromm said, adding that he had decided to ask for early retirement to make way for a fresh view from the top. His successor has not yet been chosen.
‘No convincing explanation’
Last week, revelations that an official with the federal agency destroyed intelligence files shortly after the lid blew last November on the neo-Nazi group added to authorities’ embarrassment about the case. Fromm said he had talked with those responsible but had not been able to determine why the decision was taken to destroy the files. “I have no convincing explanation to give,” he told the parliamentary committee which has been investigating the case.
Meanwhile, the German state minister responsible for integration, Maria Böhmer, said the NSU’s murders had shaken immigrants’ trust in the country, Anatolia news agency reported. She also said in a written statement that the errors made in handling the case were worrying, calling on immigrants to have faith that the rule of law was being applied in Germany and that justice would be served in the case.