German court rejects bias charge in neo-Nazi trial
MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - A German court rejected on Friday accusations of bias from two defendants in a case involving neo-Nazi racist murders, removing legal hurdles to resumption of the trial.
The trial of Beate Zschaepe and four others opened last Monday in Munich but was quickly adjourned after defense lawyers delivered motions accusing chief judge Manfred Goetzl of bias. The proceeding is due to resume next Tuesday.
The trial, one of Germany's most anticipated in decades, had already suffered delay before the accusations of judicial bias due to a dispute over media coverage of the case.
A lawyer for Ralf Wohlleben, one of the defendants, told Reuters the court had rejected his motion alleging bias. Among other issues, Wohlleben had complained that, unlike Zschaepe, he had been denied a third court-appointed lawyer for the trial.
The court later also rejected a second complaint from Zschaepe, whose allegation of bias was based on security checks the defense lawyers underwent on their entry into the courtroom last Monday.
"There exists no reasonable doubt about the impartiality of the judge," the court said in its verdict on the complaint.
Zschaepe, 38, is accused of helping to found the neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), and of complicity in the murders of 10 people, mostly ethnic Turks, from 2000 to 2007.
Wohlleben and three other men face lesser charges of assisting the NSU.
"I hope that we can finally begin the real trial next week with the reading out of the indictment," Mehmet Guercan, lawyer for the families of two of the murder victims, told Spiegel Online before the court made its rulings.
The murders by the far-right cell went undetected for more than a decade. They came to light only by chance in late 2011, shocking Germans and exposing deep lapses in the country's intelligence establishment.
Zschaepe, whose two presumed male accomplices in the killing spree committed suicide in 2011, faces life imprisonment if found guilty.
(Reporting by Joern Poltz, writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Michael Roddy)
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