Court rejects defense lawyers' request to resign from German neo-Nazi murder trial



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BERLIN — A Munich court on Monday ordered three lawyers to continue their defense in Germany's biggest neo-Nazi murder trial, rejecting their request to resign from the case.

The three court-appointed attorneys had asked to be relieved from defending Beate Zschaepe, who has been on trial since May 2012 for alleged complicity in 10 murders.

Prosecutors allege that she was part of a group, calling itself National Socialist Underground, which allegedly killed eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The group's two other members died in an apparent murder-suicide in November, 2011.

German news agency dpa quoted one of the lawyers, Wolfgang Heer, as saying ahead of the court's decision that if the court approved their resignation, the trial against Zschaepe would likely have to start over.

German media have reported that Zschaepe distrusts Heer and his two colleagues, Anja Sturm and Wolfgang Stahl. Her recent request that they be replaced was denied by the court, though it did grant her a fourth attorney.

Revelations about the authorities' bungling of the case have caused deep embarrassment in Germany, as well as accusations of deliberate cover-ups.

Official inquiries showed investigators in different parts of Germany failed to exchange important clues about the group after they were first sought by police in 1998.

For years police also attributed most of the killings to immigrant gangs, sparking a debate about institutional racism in Germany.

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