Beate Zschape, the alleged ringleader of the National Socialist Underground, will face murder charges
Beate Zschape, the alleged ringleader of the National Socialist Underground, will face murder charges

The trial of a group of German neo Nazis accused of involvement in the murder of nine immigrants and a policewoman is to begin on Monday.

Beate Zschape, the alleged ringleader of the National Socialist Underground, will face charges with four others in one of Germany's most high profile trials since World War Two.

The victims, eight of whom were Turkish and one Greek, were all shot in the head at point-blank range in a seven year campaign of terror between 2000 and 2007.

The group is also accused of two nail-bomb attacks, one of which resulted in a device concealed in a cake box exploding in the face of the Turkish shopkeeper who opened it. Another blew up in a Cologne market, leaving dozens injured.

"Their motive was to unsettle citizens of foreign origin in the hope that they would start leaving Germany out of fear for their own safety," said Harald Range, chief state prosecutor.

Germany's security services have been castigated for allowing the group to go undetected for so long, despite a bomb-making factory being discovered in Zschape's garage in 1998.

Initially investigators worked on the theory that the victims had links to organised crime or were targeted by Islamists.

The head of the country's intelligence services has been forced to resign amidst accusations of institutional racism and its security apparatus is to be reorganised.

Semiya Simsek, the daughter of one of the victims, has described how in initial police interviews her family were made to feel like criminals and said: "I feel like the neo-Nazis shot him [but] the German authorities killed him a second time."

Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats, called the case a "farce", saying it had made Germany "the laughing stock of the world".

The existence of the group only came to light when group members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bonhardt, realised that the police were closing in on them after a bank robbery went wrong and killed themselves.

In their caravan in the east German town of Eisenbach police found the Ceska pistols used in each of the murders alongside the men's bodies.

Officers also discovered a DVD in which the group proclaimed their responsibility for the crimes and which contained footage of the bodies of those murdered and a sequence with a Pink Panther style cartoon character adding up the number of victims.

Zschape then set fire to the Zwickau flat she shared with the men and went on the run, before handing herself in to police four days later.

The trial is expected to last into next year.

There was a surge of support for far-right organisations in East Germany after reunification when unemployment soared.

A study last year by the country's Friedrich Ebert Foundation found that 15.8% of east Germans had extreme-right views.

In other European countries there has been a resurgence of the far-right in recent years, with groups such as the UK's EDL and Greece's Golden Dawn party attracting support.