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Top German Court Rejects Bid to Outlaw Nazi-Linked Party.

By Reuters

Germany's Constitutional Court on Tuesday said the far-right National Democratic Party resembles Adolf Hitler's Nazi party, but ruled against banning it because it was too weak to endanger democracy. Germany's 16 federal states had pressed for the ban amid rising support for right-wing groups that has been stoked by popular resentment over the influx of large numbers of migrants.

Critics, including Jewish groups, condemned the court ruling, saying it sends a signal that legitimizes the spread of hatred. Germany's intelligence agency views the party as racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist. The court said that while the party's aims violate the constitution, there is insufficient evidence that it could succeed in fulfilling them, and this makes a ban impossible.

"The NPD intends to replace the existing constitutional system with an authoritarian national state that adheres to the idea of an ethnically defined 'people's community,'" the court said. "However, currently there is a lack of specific and weighty indications suggesting that this endeavor will be successful."

In the countdown to German federal elections this September, the NPD has been eclipsed on the right end of the political spectrum by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany -- which has seen support jump as high as 15% in opinion polls -- and it has failed to capitalize on the refugee crisis.

The court said it seems "completely impossible" for the NPD to achieve its aims by parliamentary or other democratic means. The NPD has never won enough support to win seats in the federal parliament and, in September, lost its last seat in a regional assembly. However, it is represented on local councils and in 2014 won a seat in the European Parliament.

Welcoming the ruling, the NPD said it would now rebuild. "The stain has gone, the party is not banned, now we can start again politically," said NPD leader Frank Franz. The tough criteria for outlawing a political party in Germany are in part a legacy of the crushing of dissent in the Nazi era and communist East Germany. Only two parties have been banned since World War Two: the Socialist Reich Party, a successor to the Nazis, in 1952, and the Communist Party in 1956 in West Germany.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency says the NPD, established in 1964, has about 5,000 members and links to some violent neo-Nazis. Several senior NPD figures have been convicted of Holocaust denial or incitement -- its European lawmaker Udo Voigt has described Hitler as a "great German statesman" -- but the party denies any involvement in violence.

"Identification with leading personalities of the [Nazi] party, the use of selected National Socialist vocabulary, texts, songs and symbols, as well as revisionist statements with regard to history demonstrate an affinity ... with the mindset of National Socialism," said the court.

The International Auschwitz Committee said the ruling sends a "fatal signal to Europe where right-wing extremism overlaps with right-wing populists and tries to turn people's fears and insecurities into hatred and aggression."

The former head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, said the country's history and current strength of right-wing populism had made it crucial to outlaw the NPD. Others argued that a ban would not change people's minds. "Now we must concertedly fight right-wing extremism ... in people's heads. The discussion about a ban will no longer distract us," said Greens lawmaker Volker Beck.

An attempt to ban the NPD in 2003 collapsed because some of the party officials used as witnesses turned out to be government-paid informants. German states started pursuing a ban after the discovery in 2011 of a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground, blamed for killing nine immigrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
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Publication:Israel Faxx
Date:Jan 19, 2017
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