The 50 media seats at Munich’s Higher Regional Court for the trial of far-right terrorist Beate Zschäpe were assigned according to a first come, first served principle – but this left the foreign media out in the cold.
Head of the German Journalists’ Union Michael Konken has called for an exception to be made. “We would make a huge fuss if this were to happen the other way around – if no German journalist were allowed in the courtroom in a foreign case,” he told Tuesday’s Münchener Merkur newspaper.
He said not only Turkish but also Greek media should be allowed in – one of those killed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) neo-Nazi gang was Greek.
He was echoed by Barbara John, the government’s ombudswoman for the relatives of those murdered by the NSU – all shot in the head at close range, at seemingly random places across the country between 2000 and 2007.
“The trial will not only be closely followed in Turkey,” she told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper. She said many immigrants in Germany read Turkish newspapers or follow the news via Turkish television. “Thus it is not only to be desired, it is important that they have access,” she said.
Aktham Suliman, who worked for Arabic broadcaster Al Jazeera for years, told the paper that foreign media often lagged behind their domestic colleagues in registration matters as they usually had only a small staff, and thus no-one specifically in charge of such things.
Early this month, the NSU trial threatened to spark a diplomatic incident after the court refused to guarantee space for the Turkish ambassador.
Proceedings are due to start on April 17th, when Zschäpe will face judges. Prosecutors are currently working on the assumption that she is the last surviving member of the three-member gang. She gave herself up a few days after the others died following a botched bank robbery. Uwe Mundlos killed Uwe Böhnhardt and then himself in a camper van surrounded by police in November 2011.
The lengthy chain of police and security service errors and cover-ups connected to the case reflected dreadfully on Germany and left leaders embarrassed at the seeming lack of importance ascribed to the deaths of the victims.