In response to political pressure and an order from Germany's highest court, the Munich court overseeing the biggest neo-Nazi trial in German history said Friday it will redo the media accreditation process and allot seats to foreign and domestic media organizations based on a raffle.
Last month, the court sparked an uproar when none of the 50 seats reserved for media representatives on a first-come, first-served basis were allotted to media representatives from Turkey and other foreign countries.
After the court refused to budge to political and public pressure, the Turkish daily Sabah petitioned the Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court for access. The court responded last week by ordering that the accreditation process be started from scratch and that an appropriate number of seats be reserved for "representatives of the foreign media with a special connection to the victims of the accused."
On Friday, the Munich court said it would reserve four seats exclusively for the Turkish media, one seat for the Greek media and another for media publishing in the Persian language. Ten seats will be set aside for the international press as well as foreign-based German-language media. Finally, 35 seats are to be reserved for the German press.
The trial, which had been set to start this week, has been postponed until May 6 ass a result of the accreditation problems. The trial will focus on Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving member of a suspected neo-Nazi terror cell, and four men accused of helping the group. The National Socialist Underground (NSU) is believed to have killed 10 people, eight of them of Turkish origin, one of Greek descent and a policewoman..
Of 100 Seats, 50 Will Go to Media
The courtroom has only 100 seats at its disposal, and 50 will be assigned to the media. In the original accreditation process, which allocated the same number of spots for the press, not a single seat had been allotted to the Turkish media. The court has chosen to assign one seat to Persian-language media organizations because the NSU is believed to be connected with a 2001 bombing attack in the western German city of Cologne that seriously injured a 19-year-old woman of Iranian descent.
The trial of Zschäpe, 38, is expected to generate considerable international media attention because of the apparently racist nature of the murders. Despite the heinous nature of their alleged crimes, Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, the creators of the NSU, managed to remain underground and avoid detection by police and intelligence agencies for years. They were only linked to the murders of foreigners and a string of bank robberies after Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed suicide and Zschäpe apparently set fire to the shared apartment they lived in. Investigators found a gun linked to the killings at the residence.
The failure to link the crimes to the group has prompted massive criticism of German police and the intelligence services set up after World War II to monitor and prevent the spread of radical ideology.