German authorities have uncovered a network of far-right activists in prisons communicating by secret code.
Among the names on the network’s address list was that of a woman who goes on trial next week accused of a series of racially motivated murders.
The revelations are embarrassing for Germany, which has been shaken by charges that for decades its intelligence services bungled the monitoring of far-right groups.
The justice minister in the state of Hesse, Joerg-Uwe Hahn, yesterday confirmed that inmates’ cells had been searched and letters checked in the past few weeks.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes made by security authorities in relation to the crimes of [neo-Nazi cell] the National Socialist Underground [NSU],” Mr Hahn told Bild daily. “We know far-right criminals are trying to build up new organisational structures from prisons. We will stop this.”
A spokesman for prosecutors in Frankfurt confirmed they had opened an investigation, but declined to give further details. It was unclear how far the network stretched across Germany.
The aim of the network was to offer financial support to inmates and their families and to allow individuals to exchange political views, German media said. Members communicated via coded messages in letters and small adverts in magazines.
Mr Hahn said officials had found a list with the name and address of Beate Zschaepe, the woman accused of taking part in a racist killing spree believed to have been carried out by the NSU cell in 2000-7. Zschaepe goes on trial with four other suspects in Munich next week.