BERLIN (Reuters) - German police arrested a man Sunday they suspect of assisting in six murders and one attempted murder committed by a neo-Nazi cell uncovered last month, a case that has renewed debate about banning a far-right party.
Prosecutors said the 36-year old, named as Matthias D., was arrested in the early morning at his home in Erzgebirgskreis, an area in the eastern state of Saxony. Police were now searching three flats in the area.
Investigators believe the cell, which called itself the “Nationalist Socialist Underground” (NSU), has killed nine Turks and Greeks and a 22-year-old police woman since 2000. The cell is also suspected of two bomb attacks and 14 bank robberies across the country, prosecutors say.
A statement by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said the suspect was believed to have assisted the group in two cases. He is believed to have shared the right-wing views of the cell and at least to have assented to its crimes, the statement said.
“He is suspected of providing two flats in Zwickau (Thuringia) to the members of the NSU as permanent accommodation,” the statement said.
The case has received widespread media attention and has prompted a second bid to outlaw the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). A previous attempt in 2003 failed after witnesses were exposed as intelligence agency informants.
Spiegel Online reported that there were more than 130 informants in the party and intelligence services were concerned that more than 100 could be exposed if the NPD was banned. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution declined to comment on the report or on a possible NPD ban.
The NPD, which has condemned the crimes, is represented in two state assemblies and gets about 1 million euros in taxpayer money each year.
The domestic intelligence service describes the party as racist, revisionist, anti-Semitic and inspired by Nazism.
Prosecutors have said the “Nationalist Socialist Underground” cell was “motivated by xenophobic and subversive thinking” and that its goal was to kill citizens, mainly those with foreign roots and those representing the state’s authority.
Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Rosalind Russell