Outrage grows over media ban in neo-Nazi trial

Outrage grows over media ban in neo-Nazi trial

Outrage grows over media ban in neo-Nazi trial

‘The hope must be that this media interest will be treated with sensitivity,’ Chancellor Merkel spokesman says. AFP photo

Outrage stemming from a decision to restrict the Turkish media’s access to a German trial against neo-Nazi group accused of killing eight Turks and two others is growing amid revelations that the court also failed to guarantee seats to international media outlets.

The German government said yesterday it hoped a court would find a way to give the Turkish media access to cover the trial but stressed that its hands were tied.

“It would be good if, in a case that obviously interests the Turkish public and people of Turkish origin in Germany ... there were the possibility for journalists to be given appropriate access to report on it,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters. “In light of the independence of the judiciary, it is not for me to say how that should be done but I can express this wish nevertheless.” 

Some 123 media sources have applied for accreditation, including eight from Turkey. Those not assigned to a courtroom seat still get accreditation cards, but no guaranteed spots, according to Der Spiegel. News agencies The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, BBC, Al-Jazeera and the New York Times are all on the alternate list, too. However, Mandoga news agency and Radio Arbella, a local radio, will be in the court room.

Beate Zschaepe, the woman believed to have been at the heart of the neo-Nazi cell accused of killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007, goes on trial on April 17 in a case that stunned Germany when it came to light in late 2011. Zschaepe is suspected of involvement in the 10 murders, whose victims included eight Turks, a man of Greek origin and a German policewoman.

The Munich superior regional court said the 50 reserved courtroom seats for the media had been allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis, adding that the trial could not be heard in another room for legal reasons. The courtroom for the trial has already been renovated to accommodate the huge interest in the case. Early this month, the court also came under fire after the Turkish ambassador and human rights commissioner for the Turkish Parliament were denied reserved seats in the courtroom. Space is tight in the courtroom, judge Manfred Götzl reportedly wrote in a letter, though the two men would be welcome to sit in the limited seating provided to the public. German daily Bild offered to give its place to a colleague from daily Hürriyet, but a court spokesman said this would violate the accreditation rules.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman also voiced cautious doubts about the current media access plans while stressing that Berlin could not intervene. 

“We as a government have a great deal of understanding that there is such strong interest among media in Turkey. Indeed most of the victims of this horrible murder spree were of Turkish origin,” he said. “The hope must be that this media interest will be treated with sensitivity.”