In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman, John, Berlin's former commissioner for foreigners, said there is “prejudice among the German police against immigrants in the country.”
Nine immigrants, the majority of them ethnic Turks, were killed in Germany between 2000 and 2006. It was discovered that the NSU was responsible for the killings. The activities of the neo-Nazi group only came to light in 2011 when its suspected founding members were found dead as a result of an apparent murder-suicide as the police closed in on them following a bank robbery. The string of killings of the owners of small businesses, including a florist, a tailor and fast-food stall owners -- referred to as the “kebab murders” -- went unsolved for many years, with the authorities suspecting organized crime rather than politically motivated violence.
John said she is in close contact with the families of the nine murdered immigrants, who are facing a number of problems, including double citizenship, accommodation and education. “No one paid attention to those people for years. They were treated as criminals rather than victims. Now they are happy that all the accusations leveled against them have been proven groundless. But they do not feel at ease after learning that their relatives' murderers are extremist rightists. On the contrary, they are more frightened than ever,” she stated.
The ombudsman said she lost confidence in German security agencies after she was assigned to represent the families of the victims of neo-Nazi terrorism. “I could not even fathom the things that happened. Security officials were [reportedly] trying to find evidence to prove that the relatives of the victims were actually the culprits. They tried to push them into a corner with shameful accusations. That was an unbearable burden for the relatives of the victims,” she noted, adding that the efforts of German security officials in trying to prove that the victims' relatives were guilty is a clear indication that they are prejudiced against immigrants in Germany.
In July, Heinz Fromm, head of Germany's national domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), stepped down amid criticism of the agency's investigations into the far-right group. Also in the same month, the regional government in Thuringia -- the home state of the alleged group members -- announced the removal of Thomas Sippel, the head of its own intelligence agency who “no longer [had] the confidence” of the state legislature, according to regional Interior Minister Jörg Geibert. The resignations came after revelations that an official had destroyed files relating to the NSU.
According to John, the resignations do not “mean much to relatives of the victims.” “They are of course aware of the resignations. They are shocked to learn that the files relating to the neo-Nazi group were destroyed by an official. Turkish immigrants, who usually have high confidence in state institutions, used to think that the German state would protect them. But their confidence [in the German state] was shaken after learning that tips to shed light on the murders of their relatives were intentionally destroyed,” John stated. She also added that the relatives have asked the German authorities to find out the truth behind the murders because they will feel more comfortable only after the real motive of the murders is fully brought to light.
John complained that German security agencies, including the police department and intelligence service, do not function in a manner that addresses the problems of the country's immigrants. Suggesting solutions to the deficiency, John said the German police should become more accustomed to seeking tips for any motive of xenophobia when an immigrant is subjected to an act of violence.