Politicians and press push for NSU court compromise | News | DW | 11.04.2013
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Politicians and press push for NSU court compromise

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 president.

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 courtroom where the trial against German Beate Zschaepe a member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground (NSU) will take place, is pictured in Munich March 15, 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Michael Dalder)

One suggested solution was to pick a larger courtroom

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.

Bundestag, journalists' union join fray

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 scratch.

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 radicals.

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)