Turkey waded into a deepening row with Germany’s justice ministry today when it demanded that a Munich court guarantee access to its journalists for the trial of five neo-Nazis accused of the worst far-right terrorist attacks in post-war German history.
The five, due to stand trial in Munich next month, have been charged with complicity in the murders of a policewoman and nine immigrants, including a Greek stallholder and eight Turkish street vendors.
On Monday judges at the Munich court trying the far-right National Socialist Underground members ruled that Turkish journalists could not be guaranteed access to the trial because they had submitted in their applications too late.
Today the administration in Ankara joined the German government, the European Commission, German-Turkish organisations and Germany’s Foreign Press Association in demanding that the court revise its decision. Germany is home to nearly three million Turkish immigrants.
“It would be desirable if the court could reconsider its decision given the importance of this trial for Turks in Germany,” Ankara was reported to have told the Munich judges.
Viviane Reding, the European Union Justice Commissioner said the court was clearly at fault. “ It is the most normal thing in the world for foreign journalists to want to attend such a trial – especially if they come from the countries of the victims,” she told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The Munich judges argue that they opted to hand out trial press passes on a purely “first-come first-served” basis, and that using other criteria would have laid them open to legal charges of political bias. “We may be getting it in the neck from the press, but at least we are not putting the case at risk,” said Judge Margarete Nötzel
However their ruling means that only 50 journalists are guaranteed admission to the trial. The remaining 175, including eight from Turkey, have been placed on a waiting list – but may be allowed access to the public gallery.
The judges have insisted that the case must be held in the comparatively small 250-seat courtroom because it is the only one equipped with the proper security arrangements.
The German government has also appealed to the court to revise its decision and admit Turkish journalists. But Siegfried Kauder, head of Germany’s parliamentary legal affairs committee defended the court today. “The justice authorities are not deciding on the basis of Turkish or not Turkish,” he said.