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Germany: Berlin Considers Seeking Ban On Neo-Nazi Party

German officials are considering the unusual step of requesting a constitutional court ban on a small right-wing extremist party in order to stem rising anti-immigrant violence. RFE/RL correspondent Roland Eggleston has the story.

Munich, 14 Aug 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A special working group of German federal and state officials met in Berlin today to consider a possible ban on a right-wing extremist party suspected of playing a role in growing anti-immigrant violence.

The party in question is the 6,000-member National Democratic Party (NDP).

Concern is growing that the attacks, if unchecked, could harm the country's image abroad and make it more difficult to recruit skilled foreign workers to live in the country.

In the latest incident, police arrested an NPD member in connection with a bomb attack on a Turkish snack bar in the eastern German city of Eisenach. The blast caused minor damage and no injuries. The suspect, a 19-year-old member of the NPD's youth movement, was to appear in court Friday.

Earlier this month, Eisenach was the scene of rightist violence when a gang of 20 neo-Nazis beat up two men from Togo and Sudan after chasing them through the city's streets.

Last month, a grenade attack in Duesseldorf injured 10 immigrants, including six Jews, from the former Soviet Union. A pipe bomb was also found and defused in front of a Bamberg home belonging to the family of a dead local Jewish leader. Police have no suspects in either attack.

In May, an NPD rally in the city of Passau, in Bavaria, heard a speech declaring that Germany was under American occupation and that only "a new German Reich" could rescue it. The speaker was a well-known right-winger, Manfred Roeder. Roeder was sentenced in 1982 to 13 years jail for his role in an attack on an immigrant hostel in which two people were killed and several injured. He served eight years.

At Friday's meeting in Berlin, the government's working group discussed its chances of persuading the Constitutional Court to outlaw the party. A ban can be issued only if the court determines that the party endangers the constitution.

The working group is expected to present its conclusions by mid-October.

A senior official at the Federal Interior Ministry, Brigitte Zypries, says any decision by the group to seek a constitutional ban needs careful consideration.

She says it would be a disaster if the court rejected the group's request because she says it would only encourage those who support right-wing parties.

Pressure for a ban comes mainly from provinces governed by conservative parties. In Bavaria, Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein says the law on protecting political parties should not be used to assist the NPD in its activities:

"We cannot allow Neo-Nazis to use the protection granted by the law on political parties to carry on violent activities."

The chief of the local security organization in North Rhine-Westfalia, Rudiger Hesse, agrees and says the NPD protects skinheads and neo-Nazis committed to violence against immigrants.

But other provincial leaders, particularly those in eastern Germany where most NPD members are based, are doubtful a ban would be helpful.

They say any ban would only force skinheads and others committed to violence against immigrants to split into smaller groups, making it more difficult for police to track their activities.