Indian-origin MP heads German committee

Berlin: Indian-origin MP Sebastian Edathy, will head a parliamentary inquiry committee, which has been set up in Berlin to investigate a string of racist motivated murders carried out across Germany by a neo-Nazi cell evading detection for more than a decade.

In a rare show of unity, all parties represented in the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, voted unanimously for the setting up of the eleven-member committee on Thursday, which will probe why the intelligence agencies and security authorities failed to prevent the murder of nine Turkish and Greek entrepreneurs and a woman police officer between 2000 and 2007.

The committee is expected to reveal how the right extremist group National Socialist Underground (NSU), could operate undetected from its base in the eastern German state of Thuringia.

It will also try to unravel the structure of the neo-Nazi cell and to establish whether it received any support from members of the intelligence services.

The committee will do everything to restore public confidence in the constitutional state, which has been shaken by the revelations that the neo-Nazi cell unleashed its terror without being detected for such a long period, Edathy told the Bundestag during a debate before the vote.

Its main goal is to make sure that such crimes will not happen again, he said. Unlike in former parliamentary inquiries, there will be no conflict among the political parties this time because they are united in their fight against right wing extremism, he said.

"At stake is jointly defending the constitutional state`s ability to function," he said in a TV interview. Edathy, 43, will formally take over as chairman of the inquiry committee at its opening session today.

It will be the highest assignment in the political career of Edathy, who became a Social Democratic Party (SPD) member of the Bundestag in 1998.

Born on September 5 1969 in Hannover as the son of a migrant from Kerala and a German mother, Sebastian Edathyparambil had a rapid rise in the SPD since he joined the party in 1990.

Shortly after entering the Bundestag, he was appointed as the party`s spokesman on migration policy. Two years later, he became a member of the influential managing committee of the SPD`s parliamentary group.

Between 2005 and 2009, he was the spokesman of the working group "right extremism and violence" of the SPD parliamentary faction. He had also served as chairman of the Germany-India parliamentary group during 2003-2007.

A link between the right extremist group and the alleged murders came to light after two members of the group Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt reportedly committed suicide in their caravan in Eisenach in the state of Saxony on November 4.

Their woman accomplice Beate Zschaepe set on fire their house in Zwickau, in the state of Thuringia the same day and surrendered to the police a few days later.

Zschaepe is reported to be the only hard core member of the neo-Nazi cell in police custody. She and three other suspected supporters of the group detained since then are currently being questioned by the Federal Prosecutor`s Office.

During the Bundestag debate, representatives of various political parties called for a thorough reform of the federal and state intelligence services.

There have been allegations that lack of proper communication among the intelligence services contributed to their failure to detect the crimes of the neo-Nazi cell even though the authorities in Thuringia had information about the existence of the group way back in 1998.

The state parliament in Thuringia has set up a separate inquiry committee.