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Court Cases

Ankara 'requests' Turkish media access to NSU trial

Turkey has made a formal appeal to Germany for Turkish media to be granted access to the murder trial of alleged neo-Nazi terrorist Beate Zschäpe. Eight of ten victims were of Turkish origin.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was reported to have telephoned his German counterpart on Saturday to request that Turkish media be given access to the forthcoming trial, which will examine a string of neo-Nazi murders.

The German Sunday newspaper "Bild am Sonntag" reported that Davutoglu also asked German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to allow Turkish members of parliament to be present.

However, the newspaper said that, while Westerwelle had expressed his understanding for the request, he had also cited the independence of Germany's justice system from the government.

A spokesman from Germany's Foreign Ministry did not comment when asked about the call, the report said.

Given that the majority of the murder victims were of Turkish origin, there was surprise when no Turkish publication was given accreditation for a permanent place in the courtroom. The Munich court argues that it allocated places for the 50 journalists attending the trial, which begins on April 17, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Zschäpe is accused of involvement in the 10 murders carried out by the neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU). Among the victims of the group were eight ethnic Turks, a man of Greek origin and a German policewoman.

Alleged accomplices charged

Two other members of the group died in late 2011 - when the case came to light - in an apparent murder-suicide that followed a failed bank robbery attempt. Zschäpe is also accused of torching the group's shared apartment in the city of Zwickau, in a bid to hide evidence. Four men accused of being accomplices to the group also face legal proceedings.

One advocate for the NSU victims, Barbara John, was reported last week as saying that it was "not only desirable but important" that Turkish media be able to report the proceedings. Many people of Turkish origin read Turkish newspapers or watch Turkish television," she told the daily "Mitteldeutsche Zeitung."

The government's integration commissioner Maria Böhmer has urged a rethink on media access to the trial. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken a more cautious line, pointing out the independence of the courts.

rc/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)