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'The world's watching Germany'

March 28, 2013

Government officials have said they hope Turkish journalists will attend the NSU trial in Munich next month. The far-right group is accused of killing eight Turks living in Germany; no Turkish media have accreditation.

The headline "Türkische Presse nicht erwünscht" ("Turkish press not wanted") can be seen on the 27.03.2013 European edition of "Hürriyet" newspaper; this edition is on sale at a news stand in Düsseldorf (Photo: Daniel Naupold/dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The upper regional court in Munich provided 50 journalists with accreditation for the National Socialist Underground trial on a "first come, first served" basis, and no media outlets from Turkey or Greece were among the first 50.

Several German government officials said on Wednesday that they hoped that exceptions could be made in this case, considering that eight victims of the murders allegedly committed by the NSU were of Turkish origin and another was Greek. The court had previously said that its standard operating procedure could not be changed.

"We in the federal government are fully aware that there is such a large Turkish media interest; at the end of the day the majority of the victims of this terrible series of killings came from Turkey," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin. "And the hope has to be that this media interest is handled sensitively."

Like Seibert, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer was careful to stress the independence of the courts, but said it "would be nice" in a case with such obvious Turkish ties "if media representatives could provide appropriate coverage."

Christian Democrat politician Maria Böhmer, the government's special representative for integration, said that a Greek and Turkish media presence was "indispensable" out of respect to the victims.

"In this case the whole world's watching Germany," Böhmer said.

Unwanted complication

The mass-circulation daily Bild had previously offered to either give its accreditation to Turkey's Hürriyet, or to share it. The court since rejected this proposal, however, saying that it would not be allowed as all accreditations were assigned to a specific journalist and publication by name. A correspondent for Hürriyet, which ran the German-language headline "Turkish press not wanted" in its European edition earlier in the week (pictured above), said he was hoping the court would change its mind and "show more empathy."

German law enforcement and legal officials were already on the back foot over an underground neo-Nazi group's ability to avoid detection and apparently kill 10 people in roughly a decade. The NSU's surviving member, Beate Zschäpe, and four alleged accomplices will be on trial. For years, police wrongly thought the killings were linked to organized crime; investigators only discovered the group by chance when a botched bank robbery led them to the group in November 2011.

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

Retired German Constitutional Court judge Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem told ARD public television that he would advise the judges in Munich to concede that their methods were "too rigid," and to seek a solution with more flexibility.

"Such a move would not constitute a loss of face, I believe it would surely command great respect," Hoffmann-Riem said, suggesting that a swap scheme with German media or a live video and audio stream in a separate courtroom were among the available options.

The German government's top anti-discrimination official, Christine Lüders, said she understood that the first come, first served accreditation system showed the court "has formally handled everything correctly according to anti-discrimination laws," but she said that in this case, the main priority should be press access for the victims' countries of origin.

The trial is scheduled to start on April 17.

msh/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)