Beginning of the trial against Beate Zschäpe and other NSU accused moved to 6 May 2013.
After a faulty process of media accreditation, the Presiding Judge of the Munich Higher Regional Court’s state security division has surprised observers by moving the start of the trial back three weeks. This decision was preceded by weeks of wrangling over the accreditation of media observers.
The Presiding Judge had ordered a process in which interested media were admitted to the trial in the order in which their applications were received by the court. This so-called “grey hound principle” led to no Turkish media being guaranteed a place in the courtroom. The Presiding Judge had not reserved any places for Turkish, Greek or Iranian media, i.e. media representing the countries of origin of the majority of NSU victims.
This process had led not only to vociferous protests, but also to a motion to the German Federal Constitutional Court for an interim order brought by Turkish-language newspaper Sabah. This motion was succesful. On 12 April 2013, the Constitutional Court ordered the Presiding Judge to assign an adequate number of seats to foreign media with a special connection to the NSU victims. (Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court (in German), Press Release (in English)).
The Presiding Judge reacted by ordering a completely new accreditation procedure and moving the beginning of the trial to 6 May. He did not choose the faster option of simply assigning three to five of the seats reserved for the general public to Turkish, Greek and Iranian media, possibly because of fears that the entire original process of accreditation had been faulty. This process had been marred by several faults, above all by the fact that not all interested media personnel had been informed of the start of the procedure at the same time.
Moving the start of the trial back by three weeks is a step which puts enormous stress on the private prosecutors, not only because meeting the accused is already an enormous emotional strain which is now being prolonged by three weeks, but also because of the costs and efforts involved in planning the trip to Munich. It is not easy to understand why the Presiding Judge chose this rather incisive course of action – after all, under German criminal procedural, a criminal judgment may not be overturned on appeal because of faults concerning media accreditation. It is to be feared that this is a first sign that the coming trial will be conducted with a focus on observing certain formal procedural provisions, rather than on the best possible illumination of the facts.