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Merkel to meet with neo-Nazi victims' families

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to meet with the families of the alleged victims of the racist National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is thought to be responsible for the cold-blooded killings of ethnic Turks, as a historic trial examining the string of unresolved killings starts in Munich on Monday. The meeting is set to take place at the Federal Chancellery Building, Merkel's official residence in Berlin. The spokesman for Merkel's office, Steffen Seibert, has stated that the date for the planned meeting is not yet clear, but said all the details related to the meeting would be shared with the media in a short time. Meanwhile, the trial for killings that may have been a cold-blooded neo-Nazi act against ethnic Turks is set to start on Monday in Munich, and will also investigate links of the murders to the German “deep state,” due to suspicions that some German state institutions had information about the events prior to the killings.

Eight Turkish citizens, one Greek citizen and one German police officer were killed in Germany between 2000 and 2007 in murders that came to be known as the “döner murders,” which remained unsolved until 2011, when a terrorist neo-Nazi ring was accidentally discovered to apparently be behind the killings. The case was a scandal in Germany because the investigation also revealed possible links between Germany's federal intelligence service and the neo-Nazi gang.

Merkel has apologized several times in public media to the victims and their families. In a recent interview she gave to the Turkish media, she said the German government will combat the hidden racism in German society that came into light with the killings.

The German government paid between 5,000 and 10,000 euros in compensation to each family of the victims, 412,440 euros in total.

Beate Zschäpe (38), the sole survivor of the NSU, is set to go on trial on Monday, along with four men alleged to have helped the killers in various ways. Ralf Wohlleben (38), the former head of the far-right group, Carsten S. (33), Andre E. (34) and Holger G. (39) will also be tried as accomplices.

The activities of the NSU only came to light last November when two suspected founders, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, were found dead following an apparent murder-suicide as police closed in on them after a bank robbery. A third alleged core member, Zschäpe, turned herself in. The string of killings of small businessmen, including a florist, a tailor and fast-food stall owners, went unsolved for years, with authorities suspecting organized crime rather than politically motivated violence to be the motive.

The trial's start was delayed by almost three weeks because of controversy over the allocation of seats for the media. In the first round, no Turkish news organization was granted accreditation to attend the trial and this sparked a reaction in Turkey and elsewhere.

The police failures in the string of murders, with their long-held theory that the killings were the work of immigrant criminal gangs, prompted the German parliament to establish an independent panel investigating whether there was institutional reluctance to deal with far-right extremists.

Several high-ranking security officials, including the head of Germany's domestic spy service, have already resigned over the criticism of how their agencies have investigated the far-right group. The resignations came shortly after revelations that an official destroyed files relating to the neo-Nazi group.

The lack of a satisfactory answer on how the group has gone unnoticed for years strengthens the claims that there are “deep relations” between the NSU and the German intelligence service.

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