STUTTGART, Germany — Giuseppe Muré, the embattled Sicilian-born barber who has been a fixture in the military community here for more 20 years, made a personal appeal to the German judge after a brief hearing in labor court.

Muré, who was fired from his hair-cutting job at Kelley Barracks in September, says the Army and Air Force Exchange Service broke the law when it broke its contract with him.

Out of work and out of money, Muré was hoping the judge would make a quick decision at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing in downtown Stuttgart, where the 64-year-old filed his complaint. But Muré will have to wait until March 5 for the case to go to trial.

"It’s crazy. I don’t understand," said Muré, frustrated by the delay.

Muré vs. AAFES is one of the stranger disputes to come around, as noted by the labor court judge who said he’s never seen such a case.

According to AAFES, Muré was mistakenly overpaid about 750 euros per month since April 2005 in a mix-up over the amount of its share of the barber’s sales. Between then and 2007, Muré was paid an extra 15,000 euros.

AAFES, which oversees vendors at U.S. military installations, never asked for the money back. But last year, AAFES told Muré he needed to start operating under the terms of what the contract should have read in the first place, which meant AAFES was supposed to receive a 39.73 percent cut of his sales, as opposed to a 10 percent cut.

Translation: Take a 750-euro-per-month pay cut. Muré said he wasn’t interested. His contract was good through February 2010, and the deal should stand, Muré argued.

But in September, Muré says he was fired from his job. He also said AAFES unfairly increased deductions from his pay during the final months, taking the 39.73 percent cut of his sales instead of 10 percent.

"On Sept. 4, they say you don’t come here no more," he said.

Muré said he’s seeking 13,000 euros in back pay and fees he says are still owed. He also wants to be reinstated so he can complete his contract.

The amount Muré seeks in damages will continue to accumulate until he’s reinstated, said Walter Zulger, Muré’s attorney.

"They wrote nasty letters, but they didn’t have a good reason to fire him," Zulger said. "That doesn’t reach the standard in Germany. You have to have a good reason. We’re in Germany and German law applies."

Following the Tuesday court hearing, an AAFES attorney and representative declined to comment on the case or elaborate on its legal position.

Shortly before he was terminated, Muré said he was reprimanded by AAFES for not being in the office during a portion of his office hours during a three-day span. Because he ran a one-man shop at Kelley Barracks, Muré posted a note on the door saying he would be out of the office for part of the day for a medical treatment. When he came back, an AAFES official started to give him a hard time, Zulger said.

"They say a general was waiting," Muré added.

AAFES contends that since Muré was an individual contractor he is subject to American law, according to Zulger.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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