Germany: Politicians and press push for NSU court compromise

12th Apr 2013

Eight of the people the German neo-Nazi NSU cell allegedly killed were Turkish, another
was Greek. No reporters from either country will attend the trial as it stands. Several key
figures have called for that to change.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül lent his voice to an ongoing debate about journalist
representation at one of Germany’s highest-profile post-war court cases when Economy
Minister Philipp Rösler visited Ankara on Thursday.

Several German news outlets, citing participants in the closed-door talks, reported that
Gül had called for Turkish media representation at the trial in Munich. The reports, which
also said Gül expressed his confidence in the German legal system, only paraphrased the

Rösler was reported as saying that the more open the trial, the better it would be for
Germany. Four people are on trial for their roles in 10 murders committed by the far-right
National Socialist Underground cell between 2000 and 2007. Eight of the victims were ethnic
Turks, another hailed from Greece and the tenth was a German policewoman.

The Munich court has so far stuck rigidly to protocol. Following its usual procedure, the
court issued the 50 available journalists’ accreditations on a “first come, first served” basis –
in order to avoid violating anti-discrimination laws. No Turkish or Greek outlets were among
the first 50 outlets to apply, the vast majority of which were German.

Despite the trial being one of the most sensitive and high profile in post-war German history,
a venue with only 100 seats for the public and press – split evenly between the two – has been
selected. Similar concerns have been voiced by civilians with a vested interest in attending,
who are also subject to the first come, first served system.

The court has since said that this standardized process cannot be altered for any case, and that
all accreditations are non-transferrable. German mass-circulation daily “Bild” had offered
to give its spot at the trial to the comparable Turkish “Hürriyet” newspaper, which also
publishes a European edition available on German news stands. Other media groups followed
Bild with similar offers.

Another pair of proposed solutions, either moving to a larger venue or offering a “livestream”
of audio and video from the court in another location, has so far been rejected by the court.
A group of 55 parliamentarians from Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, focused on the
suitability of the courtroom in a joint appeal issued on Thursday.

“It is not the task of public and press interest in the unique case to adapt to the size of the
room that has been allocated, but rather the reverse: The major interest must be granted the
requisite space,” the parliamentarians said in a statement.

The federal government has already voiced its “hopes” for a “sensitive” solution to the
situation, albeit simultaneously stressing that the decision must lie with the independent
German judiciary.

The Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (German Federation of Journalists) said Thursday that
one solution might be to scrap the existing accreditation process altogether and start from

The case is scheduled to open on Wednesday, April 17. One 38-year-old woman, Beate
Zschäpe – the only alleged core member of the cell still alive – and four alleged accomplices
are on trial.

German authorities were already somewhat on the back foot with regard to the alleged NSU
murders. The neo-Nazi group was uncovered by chance after a botched bank robbery led
police to the cell at the end of 2011. Prior to this, investigators had mooted that the killings
might be tied to organized crime among immigrant communities – not German far-right

The backlash from the case led either directly or indirectly to leadership reshuffles at the
federal and at some regional German domestic intelligence agencies, as news of missing files
and investigative irregularities surfaced after the NSU’s discovery.

msh/ccp (AFP, dpa


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