Turkish Deputy PM: Germany must investigate racism as motive for fires

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has called on German authorities to investigate claims that two recent fires, which broke out in predominately Turkish apartment buildings in the cities of Cologne and Stuttgart in March, may be an act of racially motivated arson.

The debate over the German authorities treatment of racially motivated attacks against Turks was triggered after two people died in Cologne on Sunday after a fire ripped through their apartment building, which is home to primarily those of Turkish descent. On March 10 another apartment blaze, this time in Stuttgart, killed eight people of Turkish descent.

Commenting on these two successive incidents taking place in a month, Bozdag responded to questions from reporters during a meeting in Ankara on Monday. “In both incident in Cologne and Stuttgart, the German authorities and police should take into consideration the claims that neo-Nazis or other groups may be involved in perpetrating arson. All the questions regarding the incidents should be asked, their possible answers should be determined and the public should be informed about the answers by German authorities,” he said.

Stating that nearly 6.5 million Turks live in Germany, Bozdag said some questions came to mind after the successive incidents took place in Germany's Turkish residential areas, adding that the two recent incidents led the government to be more suspicious and forced government officials to share their views with the public. “We see that the German authorities consistently announce just five minutes after each incident that there is no sign of a racist attack or any link to extremist neo-Nazi groups. The fact that they announce such things although they don't know yet much about the details increases our suspicions,” he said. “It is hard to believe these fires select just Turkish apartments to break out in and the problems with electricity or electric outlets only happen in Turkish apartments or houses in Germany. Therefore, we are waiting now for the German authorities to investigate the incidents, find the perpetrators and punish them.”

Two individuals, one of them an Albanian citizen (19) and the other a German citizen (30), were killed and 26 injured in the incident on Sunday. According to various media reports, the fire broke out on the first floor in an area where baby carriages are kept. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Bozdag criticizes German court for not reserving space for Turkish media

Bozdag also criticized a German court for not reserving seats for Turkish media at the trial of a case involving neo-Nazi killings targeting minorities in Germany, in particular Turkish citizens living in Germany. He stated: “If it was us who made such a decision, the German government would raise grave concerns.”

The first hearing in the trial into the terrorist neo-Nazi ring killings in Germany will be held in Munich on April 17. Eight Turkish citizens, one Greek citizen and one police officer were killed in Germany between 2000 and 2007 in murders that came to be known as the “doner murders,” which remained unsolved until 2011, when a terrorist neo-Nazi ring was discovered to be behind the killings.

For the first hearing of the case Sebastian Edathy, chairman of the German parliamentary commission established to investigate the neo-Nazi murders in Germany, officially asked the court in writing for seats to be reserved for two Turkish officials in the courtroom. The court rejected the request, noting that the trial is open to the public and Turkish officials can attend the trial as ordinary citizens.

With local media rushing to secure seats at what will be one of Germany's most-watched trials in decades, no Turkish news reports were allocated places -- a situation that one German government minister said was unacceptable and a potential national embarrassment.

Commenting on the issue, Bozdag stated that by doing this, the German court brings its objectiveness into question. “The decision of the German court is very strange. A total of eight Turks were killed in the case, but you don't allow any Turkish authority or Turkish media outlet to follow the hearings. You allow a total of 50 German media outlets to watch the hearing. In which case; we cannot talk about the objectiveness of the court. An objective court would not have made such decisions.”