German parliamentarians inquiring into a neo-Nazi murder series in Germany have invited senior Turkish officials to monitor a major trial opening in Munich in April. Eight of those murdered were of Turkish origin.
A visit to Turkey by the German parliament's committee of inquiry into ten neo-Nazi murders between 2000 and 2007 has ended also with a pledge by the committee's chairman Sebastian Edathy that its findings will be published in Turkish as well. And, he said he would ask Munich judges to allow seats to be reserved for top Turkish observers.
On April 17, Munich's Higher Regional Court is scheduled to begin the trial of Beate Zschäpe and four other suspects on charges including complicity in anti-foreigner murders. It is likely be one of the largest trials in post-war Germany, with 600 witnesses due to testify.
The 38-year-old Zschäpe is the sole surviving member of a core neo-Nazi trio that across Germany allegedly murdered nine shop proprietors, including a resident of Greek origin, and subsequently a policewoman.
Gangland killings were initially blamed but only last year did German police and diverse intelligence agencies admit that they had failed to link the far-right suspects to the murder series. Those failings drew sharp criticism from Turkey, which said trust among millions of residents of Turkish origin in Germany had been shaken. Four senior German security officials also resigned.
The renewed scrutiny of the murder series had followed the discovery in November 2011 of two other dead members of the self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU) after their apparent murder-suicide in the eastern German city of Zwickau. The trio had lived hidden since 1998.
Observer seats reserved for Turkey
Winding up his committee's trip in Ankara on Friday, Edathy (pictured above) said he would asked the Munich court to reserve seats at the trial opening for Turkey's ambassador and the head of the Turkish parliament's human rights committee, Ayhan Sefer Üstün.
The Turkish committee's members had also been invited to attend a Berlin hearing of witnesses before his inquiry panel in April, said Edathy who is an interior affairs expert of Germany's opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Edathy said Turkish cabinet ministers, including Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, had been assured by visiting German inquiry members – across all political party lines - that there was no evidence of a cover-up by German authorities in the wake of the NSU murder spree.
The initial supposition by German authorities that organized crime lay behind the murders was "not professional and not objective," Edathy added.
Turkey calls for improvements
On Thursday, Turkey's deputy premier, Bekir Bozdag, who oversees the situation of Turks living abroad, said he hoped the German committee's findings would include suggestions on investigative improvements and not just clarify the murder series.
Alongside Zschäpe, four other men have been charged with various crimes for allegedly helping the NSU, including Ralf Wohlleben, a formerly prominent far-right party functionary, who is accused of organizing weapons for the trio.
The prosecution case has been complicated by suggestions that some of the four might have been informers for Germany's security services at the time of the alleged NSU crimes.
Next Monday, German President Joachim Gauck is due to meet in Berlin with relatives of the murder victims.
Steffen Seibert, the main spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met relatives early last year, said Merkel would meet them again in May.
ipj/kms (epd, AFP, dpa, Reuters)