Media protest in Germany ahead of neo-Nazi trial
Foreign press excluded from court case of suspected neo-Nazi linked to deaths of eight Turkish men
Bavarian finance minister Markus Soeder and Arno Hamburger, head of the Nuremberg Jewish community attend the inauguration of a memorial to victims of the NSU murder series on March 21st in Nuremberg, Germany. Some of the alleged perpetrators are due to go on trial in April. Photograph: Johannes Simon/Getty Images
Ahead of next month’s trial of a suspected neo-Nazi serial killer, German bureaucracy is breeding ill-will among the international media.
Some 10 people were killed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) over the space of a decade, including eight Turkish-born men.
But when Beate Zschäpe, a suspected NSU ringleader goes on trial in Munich, it is possible no Turkish journalists will be in the courtroom to report on the proceedings.
The trial is likely to be one of the biggest political terrorism trials since the 1970s but Munich regional court distributed 50 places for journalists on a first-come first-served basis. All but one of the seats went to German media organisations – from the mass-market Bild tabloid to local Munich radio station Radio Arabella.
Turkish newspaper Hürriyet has led a protest against the accreditation process for a trial that will be watched closely by Turkey and Germany’s Turkish community.
“We called the court repeatedly before the accreditation period, asking to be informed of dates so that we wouldn’t miss them,” said Celal Özcan, Hürriyet ’s Berlin correspondent. “We registered on the first day, only to be told others were faster.”
The court dismissed the initial protest, ruling out moving proceedings to a larger courtroom or allowing a closed circuit transmission to a nearby press-room.
“A video transmission into another room would come across like a show trial and a public viewing, and it would violate the human dignity of the accused,” said Mr Siegfried Kauder, spokesman for the Bundestag legal affairs committee. “The law doesn’t differentiate between Turkish or non-Turkish. Besides, half the seats have already been reserved for journalists. The court’s decision is within the scope of what is permitted and possible.”
As the controversy dragged on, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman rowed in on Wednesday hoping that “media interest” would be “dealt with sensibly”.
Yesterday a representative for the NSU victims and their families said the court had indicated it would try to include the Turkish media.
The reaction among the German media has been universally negative.
“It is clear that no one in the stubborn Bavarian justice system has recognised or even understood the international dimensions of this trial,” remarked the Handelsblatt business daily. “The case opens on April 17th, and officials will have until then to prevent a global embarrassment.”