Media access to German neo-Nazi trial prompts outrage

A German court sparked angry criticism on Tuesday for failing to guarantee the Turkish media access to cover an upcoming neo-Nazi murder trial in which most of the victims were of Turkish origin.

Three weeks before the highly-anticipated hearing opens, representatives of the 10 victims and Germany's large Turkish community denounced what it called a "scandal" by the Munich court.

A woman believed to have been at the heart of a 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.

Beate Zschaepe is suspected of involvement in the 10 murders whose victims included eight ethnic Turks, a man of Greek origin and a German policewoman, as well as 15 armed robberies, arson and attempted murder.

She is the sole survivor of the far-right trio of militants that called itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which prosecutors have classed as a terrorist organisation.

Four alleged accomplices will also go on trial.

The Munich superior regional court on Monday said the 50 reserved courtroom seats for the media had been allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

It said in a statement on Tuesday that the trial could not be broadcast in another room for legal reasons.

Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community of Germany, which represents some three million Turks, told the daily Berliner Zeitung that he could not accept that Turkish journalists had no guaranteed spots to cover the trial.

"That is a scandal and a disgrace," he said in an interview to appear in its Wednesday issue. "I call on the court and also on politicians to find a solution here. I won't let up."

An advocate for the NSU victims, Barbara John, said it was "not only desirable but important" that Turkish media can report the proceedings.

"Many people of Turkish origin in Germany also still read Turkish newspapers or watch Turkish television," she told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

Turkey's Hurriyet daily also questioned the move.

But late Tuesday, Germany's mass circulation Bild daily said it had offered its courtroom seat to Hurriyet, which, it said, had accepted.

The head of the German Federation of Journalists called for access for Turkish and Greek news agencies, and the Foreign Press Association has also protested.