“We do understand that Turkey places great importance on this case. In a state based on the law, everybody from all backgrounds should be able to feel safe and secure in Germany,” he said.
Recalling that the Turkish Parliament‘s Human Rights Commission visited him back in February, Edathy said it is only natural for Turkish lawmakers to follow up on investigations conducted in Germany.
He has further announced that the commission will share its findings with the Turkish Parliament in the fall.
Edathy also underlined that his commission’s investigation will find out not only what happened during the previously unresolved murders but also vowed that those who were negligent or made wrong assessments will have to bear the consequences.
The German Bundestag commission will investigate events between 1992, when the racially motivated attacks against Turks started until 2011, when an unexpected turn of events in November unearthed a cache of evidence indicating that 10 murders between 2000 and 2007 were actually committed by a neo-Nazi cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) in Germany. “How did the extremism spread and take root starting in the early 1990s?” Edathy wondered, adding that the commission will look at all the crimes allegedly committed by the neo-Nazis.
Though there are separate inquiry commissions established in the states where murders took place, Sebastian pointed out that the federal commission may have to scrutinize these investigations as well. The commission will also look into the international dimension of the case. He gave an example in which the commission is considering the trail of a murder weapon — a Ceska 7.65 millimeter Browning that was used in the killings — from the Czech Republic to Germany through Switzerland.
The weapon was found in an apartment the three suspected NSU members had used, along with DVDs in which they claimed responsibility for nine murders, two bomb attacks in which more than 20 immigrants were injured and the killing of a German policewoman in 2007.
Edathy emphasized that the commission is not after restoring the damaged reputation of Germany in the global arena because the authorities had failed for 13 years to keep track of the neo-Nazi cell that went underground in 1998 in the eastern state of Thuringia. “We have to find out what happened here, not out of concern for our international reputation but rather out of respect to ourselves and to the constitutional state of Germany,” he told Turkish members of Parliament during a meeting last week.
The commission head was visibly aggressive during a hearing conducted on Thursday morning during which the former chief prosecutor of Nuremberg-Fürth, Walter Kimmel, who was tasked with leading the investigation into the murders that happened in the state of Bavaria, was grilled for failure to refer the case to federal authorities. When Kimmel denied claims that he kept the case from federal prosecutors and the federal criminal police force by treating the murders as isolated incidents that had no connection with neo-Nazi terror, Edathy challenged Kimmel when he exposed the records of the Bosporus commission (set up in Bavaria to look into these murders in 2005 and disbanded in 2008), saying that, in fact, Kimmel himself had balked at the idea of turning the case files over to federal prosecutors.
Edathy told Turkish lawmakers that members of the commission have not acquired all the documents they seek in the course of the investigation. Asked if the commission encounters any difficulty in obtaining sensitive information from the government, Edathy simply said, “We have no complaints so far.”
The 43-year-old Edathy has Indian roots and represents the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Bundestag. Because the chairmanship is the highest assignment in his political career, some question whether he is fit to lead such an important commission in the federal Parliament or if he may just be window dressing because of his immigrant background. Yet others counter that claim, saying that the hearings he has conducted so far were inquisitive and that he did not shy away from pressing witnesses who appeared before him. Sebastian has the support of all parties in the parliament that voted unanimously to set up an 11-member commission in January.
No suspension of public officials yet
Turks in Germany complain that their confidence in the constitutional state has been shaken by these murders that were pejoratively described by the German police and the media as the “döner killings” with an apparent racist overtone towards some three million Turks living in Germany. The victims all worked in small shops, stalls and kiosks, and two of them worked in döner kebab restaurants. Adding insult to injury, the German authorities investigated family members and relatives as possible suspects by ruling out racist motives behind the killings, further victimizing the Turkish community.
Some Turks also believe that the neo-Nazi cell simply could not evade detection for 13 years unless it was provided with support from German intelligence. They are also upset that no public official has been suspended so far for negligence in the investigation. German officials claim that the officials who were in charge of public safety and security at the time the murders took place have either retired or the statute of limitations has already expired. Kenan Kolat, the chairman of the Turkish Society in Germany (Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland [TGD]) criticized the government, saying that some of the prosecutors who made the wrong assessment at the time are still on the job. “They should be suspended until the investigations are completed,” he said.