Turkish paper appeals to top court over trial
A Turkish newspaper is complaining to the German Constitutional Court that it was denied a place to report on the trial of a neo-Nazi terror suspect charged with ten murders, eight of them of Turkish men.
This escalates an ongoing row over press access to the Munich Higher Regional Court for the trial of Beate Zschäpe, one of three members of the so-called National Socialist Underground. The neo-Nazi group is accused of nine racially motivated murders as well as killing a policewoman.
Zschäpe and four alleged helpers of the terror cell will be tried from April 17th - the two main members of the group are dead, one shooting the other and then himself, after a botched bank robbery left them surrounded by police.
The case exposed a horrendous level of complacency, ignorance and racism at many levels of many German security services, and has already led to a number of high-profile resignations.
So there was outrage when it turned out that all 50 media seats for the trial had been assigned to German media. Not a single one had been reserved for Turkish news organizations even though eight of the victims had Turkish roots.
The court said it had assigned the places according to a strict first come, first served basis, and that German media organizations had simply been faster to organize accreditation. Some German news organizations have offered to give their seats to Turkish colleagues, but it remains unclear whether this would be allowed.
Deputy Editor of Sabah, a Turkish newspaper published in Germany, Ismail Erel, said he and colleagues were preparing a complaint for the Constitutional Court. "We think freedom of the press and of information should apply to Turkish-speaking journalists here in Germany too," he told broadcaster ZDF on Thursday.
"Court cases must be public - also for citizens in Germany who have Turkish roots," he said.
The complaint could work, Berlin lawyer Ulrich Battis told the Berliner Zeitung. "I could imagine that the Federal Constitutional Court could take the suit as a prompt to say that the current laws could be more generously fashioned."
One did not have to be as rigid as the Munich court has been, he said, suggesting the court case could, for instance, be transmitted by video to a neighbouring room so that more people could experience it.
Turkey's ambassador to Germany, Hüseyin Avni Karslioglu, called for the Munich court to show more tact. He told ZDF that he respected the independence of the court, but added, "on the other side, this whole thing must be approached with a little more sensitivity."
He rejected the idea that Turkish media had been too slow to secure reporting positions at the trial. He said it was a complicated procedure, and that all spaces had been assigned within three hours - while the fastest of the Turkish media to apply had taken five hours to do so.