Quest to ban neo-Nazis ends in farce
THE GERMAN government’s concerted bid to rid itself of a neo-Nazi party accused of promoting race attacks and tarnishing the country’s international image collapsed in farce yesterday.
Germany’s highest court threw out an effort to ban the party in a process that has taken nearly two years and cost millions of pounds in legal fees.
It reached the ruling because the National Democratic Party (NPD) was full of paid informers for Germany’s domestic intelligence services.
Top-ranking figures, including the publisher of the party’s newspaper, were secretly on the government’s payroll for decades.
Germany’s federal constitution court threw out the government’s case to outlaw the NPD, a far-Right party that was accused of whipping up racist violence and spreading neo-Nazi propaganda.
The ruling delivered an embarrassing defeat to the chancellor Gerhard Schrder’s government, which invested considerable political capital in the drive to outlaw the party following a wave of hate crimes in 2000.
There is speculation that it may cost the interior minister, Otto Schilly, his job.
The case has been stalled for more than a year after it emerged that the government’s case rested, at least partly, on a network of informants in the National Democratic Party. This raised the question of whether any acted as provocateurs.
German media began reporting in February that judges mulling the bid to ban on the NPD had concluded the government’s case was "hopelessly compromised" because at least nine, possibly as many as 30, leading party figures were also paid agents and informers for the BND, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.
Mr Schilly’s ministry helped rally individual German states to join the government in pursuing the NPD ban. Sources within the government say he knew early on about the informants but didn’t submit that fact to the court for almost a year.
When the court suspended its hearings as a result, rival politicians heaped scorn on Mr Schilly.
Germany took action against the party, largely composed of neo-Nazi worshippers, immigrant hating skinheads, disaffected, jobless east Germans and ultra-nationalists, early in 2001 after a rise in attacks on foreigners and Jewish property that resulted in several deaths.
Horst Mahler, a former member of the left-wing Red Army Faction terrorist group, is the NPD’s lead lawyer. He said informers "distorted" information and said the party was targeted "merely because it stood up for national values".
Although the NPD has no parliamentary seats the government now fears the wrong message has been sent. It is unclear if or when there will be another attempt to ban it.
German officials acknowledge many NPD officials acted as paid informants from 1997-2002. They have refused to identify them in court unless the public and NPD representatives are excluded.
The BND had two types of spy within the party ranks - government agents posing as recruits and disaffected party members who were eager to report back for money. One of the informants was alleged to have been on the party’ s leadership committee.
The intelligence operation against it, however, ended in at least one instance of informers telling on fellow informers. Only when controllers compared their notes did they discover where things had gone badly wrong.
For Mr Mahler and party chiefs, the discovery of clumsy spies clambering over each other to expose far-Right plots was manna from heaven. Mr Mahler said the spies were "steering" party members to excessive behaviour.
Wolfgang Frenz, 66, the vice-leader of the NPD’s vital North Rhine-Westphalia region, was paid up to 260 a month by the intelligence services between 1962 and 1995.
Mr Frenz, a co-founder of the party, had a relationship with the intelligence services he described as "particularly intensive" in the 1970s and 1980s. Udo Holtmann, 64, Mr Frenz’s superior and the editor and publisher of the party’s newspaper, was paid by the government for 24 years and is said to have told his party colleagues about his informer status, acting as a double agent.
"This was a banana skin episode of the highest order," said a source within the BND. "The government created a legal loophole wide enough for the NPD to drive a tank through," he added.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East