Berlin to ban neo-Nazi demonstrations

BERLIN – German Interior Minister Otto Schily is drafting legislation to outlaw neo-Nazi demonstrations, a move welcomed by opposition conservatives but criticised by civil liberties advocates.

A spokeswoman for the minister said Tuesday the reduction of the rightists’ constitutional freedom of assembly was designed to protect the general public and had been suggested by most of the 16 state interior ministers.

Analysts said Berlin was especially worried that neo-Nazis would picket the Holocaust Memorial to be opened next May in the heart of Berlin. Germany was deeply embarrassed when neo-Nazis held a procession in 2000 through the Brandenburg Gate in the capital.

On Tuesday, the online edition of Der Spiegel quoted the draft as banning assemblies that “glorify Naziism or totalitarianism, terrorist organisations and domestic or foreign crime in such a way as to endanger the public peace”.

The bill would also allow bans on rallies “in places that specifically commemorate the victims of organized inhumanity” and that “approve, deny or trivialize this inhumane treatment”.

Holocaust deniers resent the concentration-camp memorials dotted all over Germany and have defaced the prison buildings and the cemeteries as well as demonstrating outside.

The states are also fed up with the huge cost of deploying thousands of riot police to prevent brawls every time that a tiny neo-Nazi group announces a demonstration and militant leftists picket it, according to analysts.

A spokesman for the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), which rules the southern state of Bavaria, welcomed the Schily moved, which he said met a long-standing CSUdemand and remained in harmony with constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

But Volker Beck, the Greens parliamentary whip, said: “You can’t tailor rights to demonstrate according to whether you like their demonstrators’ ideas or not.”

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