Media ban in neo-Nazi case annoys Berlin

Media ban in neo-Nazi case annoys Berlin

Media ban in neo-Nazi case annoys Berlin

People hold pictures of the victims of the NSU cell. Munich court’s media ban on neo-Nazi case annoys Berlin. REUTERS photo

Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said April 9 the country’s image abroad could suffer because of a court’s failure to guarantee Turkish media access to a neo-Nazi murder trial starting next week.

The high-profile Munich trial on April 17 will focus on the far-right killer cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU) whose members have been blamed for 10 killings, eight of them of immigrants with Turkish roots, between 2000 and 2007. While the xenophobic murder spree stunned and shamed Germany, the court sparked further controversy when it handed out media slots for the trial on a first-come, first-served basis, which ended up shutting out Turkish media.

The German government has been cautious not to criticize the court, pointing to the independence of the judiciary, but Westerwelle voiced his concerns to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily. Speaking about Germany’s image abroad for a report published yesterday, he said: “It would be problematic if a suspected terrorist group commits murders over years in Germany and if the court then grants sufficient access only to the national media but not the international public.”

The court will try Beate Zschaepe, the sole survivor of the NSU trio. The two gunmen, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, died in 2011 in a suspected murder-suicide when they were cornered by police after a bank robbery. Four alleged NSU accomplices will also stand trial.

New cell discovered

German authorities are also tightening security measures after discovering a neo-Nazi network inside the country’s prisons.

The network, which was used to try to organize financial support for far-right convicts and their relatives, was discovered in the state of Hessen after evidence was uncovered during a regular search of prison cells. Authorities say coded messages were sent between prisons by letter through the mail and also hidden in magazines.

Hesse state Justice Minister Jörg-Uwe Hahn told Bild newspaper yesterday that his office was tightening controls to prevent any new networks from developing, the Associated Press reported.
Hahn’s office confirmed reports that the network attempted to contact people connected to the NSU but would give no specific details. “We don’t want to repeat the mistakes in the prison system that security authorities made in connection with the crimes of the NSU,” Hahn said.

The head of a German parliamentary panel investigating the murders said earlier this month that the suspects in the case were likely to have had more supporters than currently known. German MP Sebastian Edathy said the NSU couldn’t have carried out a bombing, 10 murders and more than a dozen bank heists without a support network.