German court delays high-profile neo-Nazi trial

AP News
Posted: Apr 15, 2013 2:43 PM
German court delays high-profile neo-Nazi trial

BERLIN (AP) — The trial of the sole surviving member of a neo-Nazi group alleged to have carried out a deadly terror campaign against Turks in Germany has been postponed following complaints over courtroom access for foreign reporters.

Margarete Noetzel, a spokeswoman for the Munich regional court, said Monday that the start of the trial against Beate Zschaepe, 38, and four men alleged to have helped the group, would be delayed from Wednesday until May 6.

This was to allow for a new allocation of seats after Germany's highest court ruled last week that there must be sufficient places for foreign reporters in the courtroom, she said.

Noetzel was unable to say by what criteria the seats would now be distributed and whether there would be places reserved specifically for Turkish reporters.

A lawyer for relatives of the group's alleged first victim expressed frustration at the postponement.

Jens Rabe, who represents the son and daughter of Enver Simsek, a businessman killed in 2000, said the Munich court had ignored constructive proposals on the allocation of media seats until it was forced to change course.

For many of Germany's 3 million residents of Turkish descent, the trial has become a test of their adopted home's willingness to treat them as more than second-class citizens.

Eight of the group's 10 alleged victims were of Turkish origin. The self-styled National Socialist Underground is also accused of killing a Greek man and a policewoman, as well as carrying out two bombings and 15 bank robberies.

Turkish media had missed out on any of the 50 press seats during the first allocation — which was conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis — prompting harsh criticism from officials in Turkey.

The public in Turkey has closely followed the neo-Nazi case and Turkish media have praised the German Federal Constitutional Court's decision, which has now paved the way for some Turkish journalists' access to the courtroom.

Several Turkish newspapers carried front-page stories on the issue in recent days, with some noting that even Turkey's ambassador to Berlin wasn't guaranteed a seat at the trial.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned last week that the trial risked shaping perceptions of Germany abroad and urged the court to consider giving foreign media better access.

The existence of the neo-Nazi group only came to light by chance in November 2011, when two of its three core members died in an apparent murder-suicide after a botched bank robbery.

For years, German authorities had dismissed a possible far-right motive in the killings and focused instead on the victims' alleged links to foreign criminals.

Several high-ranking security officials have resigned over the past two years after acknowledging serious failures in their handling of the case.


Ezgi Akin in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.