No Turkish or Greek media look set to sit in court when the far-right National Socialist Underground case opens. Accreditation was on a "first come, first served" basis. The court says no changes can be made.
The upper regional court in Munich came under further pressure on Tuesday to re-evaluate its media accreditation process for the high-profile trial against surviving members of the National Socialist Underground far-right group. The court issued a statement saying that the "first come, first served" accreditation method was common knowledge and could not be changed after the fact.
Eight of the 10 murders that the NSU is accused of committing were against Turkish citizens, another victim was Greek. No media outlets from Greece or Turkey were among the first 50 that received official accreditation to sit in the courtroom.
The neo-Nazi group's ability to evade capture for almost a decade while investigators wrongly thought the murders were tied to organized crime had already put Germany's law enforcement and legal system under considerable international scrutiny. The NSU were only uncovered by chance in November 2011, after a botched bank robbery led police to the cell.
Green politician Cem Özdemir, himself of Turkish descent, was particularly critical of the Munich court's "bureaucratic" method for allocating accreditation.
"I would wish for the necessary portion of sensibility and flexibility, so that international media can also report on the case with first-hand information," Özdemir said.
Alterations and new venue both rejected
The organization for foreign press in Germany (VAP) was also critical of the allocation in Wednesday's edition of the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
"It seems like the entire process has been worked out like an administrative measure," VAP deputy head Pascal Thibault told the Berliner Zeitung, admitting that he could not know "to what extent this accreditation process was handled by clueless civil servants in the court or by the judges."
"The judges should certainly have a clear understanding of the subject matter's sensitivity," Thibault said, adding he personally thought his organization should consider setting up a formal protest on behalf of the roughly 400 foreign journalists in Germany represented by the VAP.
Munich's OLG court on Tuesday issued a statement defending its system for accreditation. Spokeswoman Margarete Nötel said that the accreditation conditions "could not be changed after the fact," and that journalists without accreditation could still seek a seat in one of the roughly 50 places reserved for the general public. The court also ruled out moving to a larger venue.
The national chair of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, said he could scarcely believe that no Turkish papers would sit in court.
"I ask myself what the court really wants here," Kolat said. "Does it want to keep the Turkish public out of the case?"
Most major German media outlets are represented at the court. Mass-circulation daily "Bild" offered to give its place to the Turkish daily "Hürriyet," but this offer is unlikely to be completed; the court's rules state that all accreditations must name both a journalist and a publication, meaning that transferring a place would not currently be permitted.
The trial is slated to start on April 17.
msh/jm (AFP, dpa, epd)