BERLIN – A German woman accused of involvement in 10 neo-Nazi murders broke her silence for the first time in four years Wednesday, telling a court in Munich that she only learned of the slayings after they had taken place.
In a statement read by her lawyer, Beate Zschaepe said the killings, two bomb attacks and several bank robberies were carried out by her former lovers, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, who died in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011. Prosecutors allege that the trio formed the National Socialist Underground, which killed eight Turkish men, a Greek and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
"I reject the prosecution's charge that I was a member of a terrorist organization called NSU," German news agency dpa quoted Zschaepe as saying in the statement, which came as the trial neared its 250th day.
Zschaepe described how she met Mundlos during her childhood in East Germany in the late 1980s, and how she became part of the far-right scene that emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
The trio went into hiding in 1998. Zschaepe acknowledged that her alleged accomplices told her about the attacks after they happened, but claims she didn't report them to police because they threatened to commit suicide if she did so.
"I sincerely apologize to all of the victims and relatives of victims," she said in her statement.
Zschaepe was arrested in November 2011, shortly after Mundlos' and Boehnhardt's bodies were found in a burned-out camper van in the town of Eisenach following a botched bank robbery.
Her lawyer, Mathias Grasel, has asked the court to allow Zschaepe's lawyers to answer judges' questions rather than require her to answer them.
Zschaepe's trial and that of four others accused of supporting the group is expected to last until the middle of next year.