There have been 250 hearings and 500 witness statements in the courthouse in Munich over the past two and half years, but until now Beate Zschäpe had refused to utter a word in court about accusations she was part of a murderous far-right terror cell.
On Wednesday, she broke her silence.
In a statement read by her lawyer, the 40-year-old denied involvement in 10 murders, most of them Germans of Turkish origin, and a series of bombings and robberies.
Instead she sought to paint herself as a victim of circumstance, whose involvement was through romantic attachments with two of the perpetrators, which landed her in a situation she could then not escape. She apologized to the victims and their families.
“I feel morally guilty, for not having prevented 10 murders,” she said in the statement read by her lawyer. Ms. Zschäpe was arrested four years ago in the case.
German prosecutors accuse her of deeper involvement, charging her with being a member of the so-called National Socialist Underground, a gang of extreme-right murderers who went on a racist killing spree for a decade.
She is charged with complicity in the murders, bombings and robberies, which she is accused of helping plan but carrying out.
The two other members of the NSU cell, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, are dead.
They committed suicide in November 2011 after a botched robbery in the eastern German town of Eisenach. It was only then that authorities learned the neo-Nazis had been behind 10 brutal killings, mostly targeting men with an immigrant background, as well as a female police officer.
Ms. Zschäpe’s defense lawyer, Mathias Grasel, began reading her 53-page statement shortly before 10 a.m. in the packed Munich courtroom.