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Headlines 20 January, 2017

Headlines 13 January, 2017

Headlines 6 January, 2017

Headlines 20 January, 2017

EU anti-terror laws target Muslims, Amnesty says

Sweeping counter-terrorism laws introduced by several EU member states are disproportionate and undermine fundamental freedoms, according to a report by human rights watchdog published yesterday.

18/1/2017- The Amnesty International report analyzed counter-terrorism legislation passed by 14 EU member states over the past two years and found that these laws often enhanced government powers to increase surveillance and restricted freedom of expression. During that period, terrorist attacks have killed some 280 people in France, Belgium and Germany. The attacks, mostly claimed by the Daesh terror group, have fanned tensions over immigration, fueled the popularity of right-wing parties and made security a key theme in upcoming French, Dutch and German elections. Surveillance powers have been expanded in Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and elsewhere, allowing governments to access data from millions of people, the report found.

The report notes that the effect of such laws has been "particularly profound" on foreigners, ethnic groups and religious minorities. "Right across the EU regional space we see Muslims and foreigners being equated with terrorists," said Julia Hall, an Amnesty International expert on counterterrorism and author of the report. "This stereotyping so disproportionately affects these communities that there is a high degree of fear and alienation." Amnesty's report said new measures to crack down on glorifying or being an apologist for terrorism were shrinking the space for freedom of expression. In France in 2015, a third of more than 380 people prosecuted for apologizing for terrorism were minors, it said. Amnesty condemned what it dubbed the "Orwellian" use of curfews, travel restrictions and police check-ins to monitor individuals who were not convicted of crimes and often did not know what they were accused of.

Hall criticized what she described as "governments looking at a person and saying: ‘You look very suspicious to me. So I'm going to restrict your behavior because I think you might commit a crime.'" Amnesty also warned that so-called "pre-crime" initiatives aimed at preventing terrorist attacks have led to the restriction on people's freedom of movement of many countries. In January, France paid tribute to 17 people killed two years ago by terrorists in three days of violence that began with an attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Among other major attacks, suicide bombings in Brussels last March killed 32 people, and a Tunisian man mowed down 86 by driving a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in July in the French city of Nice. Another truck attack killed 12 in Berlin last month.
© The Daily Sabah

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Greece: Disabled refugees 'overlooked': Human Rights Watch

Disabled refugees and migrants are not properly identified in Greece and have poor access to basic services such as toilets, showers, food and medical care, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Wednesday.

18/1/2017- About 60,000 refugees and migrants live in formal and makeshift camps in Greece and Human Rights Watch said conditions there were "deplorable and volatile." "People with disabilities are being overlooked in getting basic services, even though they are among the refugees and migrants most at-risk," said Shantha Rau Barriga, disability rights director at New York-based HRW. The group urged authorities to move anyone with a disability living in tents during winter to heated prefabricated homes, and said their dire situation was "a wake-up call for the U.N. and the EU to start taking the issue more seriously". It also called on the EU to step up its efforts and provide additional resources to austerity-hit Greece.

HRW said outdoor taps and showers were not accessible for wheelchair users in the camps it visited. An 85-year-old Syrian woman in a wheelchair told the group she had not showered in a month because she could not reach the facilities. Several camps also lacked ramps to the toilets and elsewhere, an uneven, rocky terrain prevented some people from even reaching toilets with ramps, it said. Disabled refugees face varying hurdles, it found. In one case, a 24-year-old deaf Syrian man whose hearing aids were damaged when he crossed the Aegean Sea by rubber boat in February received new aids only in October.

Asked to comment on the report before its release, a government spokesman, Giorgos Kyritsis, said Greece was "doing its best" and acknowledged "it's highly likely we have not yet succeeded in facilitating the needs (of those with disabilities)." Roland Schoenbauer, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) in Greece, said: "UNHCR agrees that most of the government-run sites do not meet the standards for accommodating people with specific needs ... That's why we have prioritized people with disabilities in our accommodation scheme."

The report, based on interviews with 40 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants across Greece, said rushed registration procedures meant many disabled were not identified properly. "If you don't say it yourself, no one will ask you," a medical professional working for Medecins Sans Frontieres was quoted as saying. "If it is a disability that is not obvious, visible, even if a refugee reports it, it won't be registered." The group cited an Iraqi couple in their twenties saying they were not allowed to register their disabilities because they did not have a medical certificate for proof, even though they visibly struggled to stand or walk. "Greek authorities, the EU, the U.N., and aid organizations should make sure that people with disabilities are no longer an afterthought," Barriga of Human Rights Watch said.
© Reuters

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Greece: Far-right MP storms Athens school over refugee classes

Golden Dawn politician and his far-right supporters threaten staff for plans to offer classes to refugee children.

17/1/2017- Dozens of far-right supporters led by a member of Greece's parliament have stormed a school in the capital, Athens, threatening staff over plans to provide classes to refugee children, according to Greek officials. Yiannis Lagos, an MP with the Golden Dawn far-right outfit, and other party members hurled abuse and acted with aggressive behaviour towards teachers at the state-run elementary school in Perama, Greece's education ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. "Today's acts by the Golden Dawn members ... will not affect the operation of the school for the refugee children," said Yiannis Pantis, the ministry's general secretary. "Instances of violence and racism have no place in a school environment."

Golden Dawn, an anti-immigrant party, is the third biggest political player in Greece, a country still struggling after more than six years of deepening recession. The party has taken advantage of a protest vote against domestic political failures and internationally imposed austerity, polling just 0.3 percent in 2009 to winning almost seven percent in the country's last general election in 2015. Many of its MPs, including Lagos, and other party members are facing trial on charges that Golden Dawn is run as a criminal organisation. They have now been freed after the expiration of an 18-month imprisonment period without trial.

'Punches, abuse'
The Golden Dawn members entered the school during a meeting between local officials, teachers and parents who were scheduled to discuss plans to offer after school classes to 25 refugee children who live in a nearby camp. After storming the school, the Golden Dawn members threatened those attending the meeting and punched some teachers and parents, according to Greek media reports. Witnesses also alleged that police stood outside the school, but failed to act to prevent the attack. "Today's attack by Golden Dawn against parents and teachers in Perama, led by indicted MP Lagos, is a provocation for the entire Greek society," Takis Giannopoulos, a member of the Greek activist group Anti-Nazi Zone, told Al Jazeera. "Golden Dawn denies education to 25 children who escaped war. "This fascism cannot be tolerated." The attack was also condemned by several Greek political parties. An estimated 62,000 refugees and migrants are currently stranded in Greece following a wave of border closures across Europe after a controversial agreement between the European Union and Turkey in March 2016.
© Al Jazeera

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Slovak Far-right Lawmaker Probed for Slamming National Honors for Jews

Stanislav Mizik says state honor bestowed on Jewish recipients 'turns logic on its head' because the founders of the nation 'had a negative relationship to the Jews.'

17/1/2017- The speaker of Slovakia’s parliament initiated a criminal probe on Thursday for alleged hate speech against a lawmaker who criticized the conferring of a national honor on Jewish laureates due to their ethnicity. Andrej Danko, the speaker of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, said he would subject the far-right lawmaker Stanislav Mizik to disciplinary action in addition to the probe over his posting on January 10 on Facebook of a text slamming the initiation into the Ľudovit Stur Order of three Jewish recipients out of 20 this year, the news website Dennik N reported. The honor bestowed on Jewish recipients by Slovak President Andrej Kiska “turns logic on its head,” Mizik, a member of Slovakia’s Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia, wrote on Facebook, because the founders of the Slovak nation “had a negative relationship to the Jews due to their selling out of the Slovak nation, usury and also because of religious issues,” Mizík wrote.

The honoring of Ivan Kamenec, a respected scholar on the Holocaust in Slovakia, Mizik wrote, was inappropriate because Kamenec is “a Communist Party candidate who has often worked as an undercover agent” for the communist-era secret police and a “Marxist, who himself admitted in an interview that he is a Jew.” Juraj Herz, a Jewish film director, was also ineligible for the award due to his origins as was Eva Mosnakova, a Holocaust survivor who lectures at schools about her survival, Mizik wrote. Martin Kornfeld, the CEO of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia, told JTA Monday that his organization was pleased at Danko’s “strong reaction” to Mizik’s words, which were reported by many media in Slovakia. Kornfeld called Kotleba a “fascist party,” citing the open veneration by many of its followers of Jozef Tiso, a Nazi collaborator who during World War II served as Germany’s puppet ruler in his capacity as president of the First Slovak Republic.

About 100,000 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in Slovakia, including thousands who fled there from other countries before World War II. About 15,000 survived. Last year, amid opposition to the arrival in Central Europe of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Kotleba enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in the general elections, that took it from being the 10th largest party with 1.5 percent of the national vote to the country’s 5th largest with eight percent.
© JTA News.

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Finland: politician escapes jail but is fined for inciting Islamophobia

16/1/2017- A young politician in Finland has been fined €300 for Facebook postings criticizing Islam. A judge ruled that the postings incited hatred against Muslims. Sebastian Tynkkynen, 27, is the former Vice Chairman of the right-wing, Eurosceptic Finns Party Congress. He is also the former chairman of the Finns Youth League and a deputy member of the Oulu City Council. He came to mainstream attention as a 2011 contestant on Finland’s Big Brother. Last year, in response to terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, postings appeared on his Facebook page calling for Muslims to be removed from Finland. ‘The fewer Muslims in Finland, the better,’ said one posting. ‘The less we see of Muslims, it is safer. We have to get rid of Islam before it is too late.’ ‘Muslims get out of this country! Coming from the Middle East and Africa, Muslims should not be allowed in.’ Other postings referred to Allah and the prophet Mohammed. He appeared in court last week to deny the charge of inciting hatred and blasphemy. However, today he was found guilty. He faced a potential prison sentence of up to two years but instead was fined €300.

‘I am ready to post the same warnings to Facebook’
In a statement sent out to the press after the verdict, Tynkkynen appeared to be unrepentant. ‘The freedom of speech in Finland doesn’t look very good for LGBT people. In 2013 Finnish imam Abbas Bahmanpour compared homosexuality to incest and told in live TV-show, that gays should be punished to death. If that isn’t incitement, what is then? Bahmanpour has never been challenged with his thoughts in court.’ ‘My right to defend Finland as a society, where human rights and gender equality come true, should be bigger than the right of Muslims to not be hurt when I criticize their religious teachings to kill gays. ‘The whole Europe must wake up, when violent teachings of the Quran are coming true.

We must start loving our beautiful values and say no to Islamization of Europe. This 300€ charge won’t stop me for warning Finland and Europe about Islam. ‘Next time when I have enough money to express my political views again, I am ready to post the same warnings to Facebook.’ Tynkkynen’s supporters on Facebook have said they would help him pay his fine, while others have congratulated the court on its verdict. Tynkkynen has been widely condemned by many in the LGBTI community in the past for his right-wing views and postings on social media. He is the fifth Finns Party politician to be convicted of online hate speech.

‘Human rights are universal and apply to all people’
Viima Lampinen, chairperson of Finland’s human rights NGO, SETA, responded to news of the verdict by telling GSN: ‘Human rights are universal and apply to all people. There can’t be any exceptions or double standards. ‘There’s still a lot to do regarding SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] rights in Finland, but that can and must be accomplished without hate speech or hatred towards other minorities. We must respect each other instead.’

UPDATE: Juha Karikoski, district prosecutor for the case, told GSN: ‘The prosecution is satisfied with the verdict. It’s in line with the verdicts that have previously been given in cases of similar content.’
© Gay Star News

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Norwegians shun Breivik hearing

Anders Behring Breivik's massacre of 77 people still haunts Norwegians, yet ever fewer care about the neo-Nazi locked in a cell where his only "friend" is paid to visit.

17/1/2017- Most of the 10 seats in an Oslo court for the public to watch a case about his prison conditions have been empty as Breivik sits glumly in a black suit, the first flecks of grey in his beard, appearing by video-link from a high-security jail. The Norwegian state is appealing against a lower court ruling in 2015 that it breached a ban on "inhuman and degrading treatment" under the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping Breivik, 37, in near-isolation since the 2011 killings. "He's being forgotten, step by step ... People are kind of done with him," said Aasne Seierstad, author "One of Us", a book about the 2011 mass murder, the worst in the Nordic nation in modern times.

It is in stark contrast to his criminal trial in 2012, covered by hundreds of reporters. At that time, Norwegians seemed riveted by his every word, horrified that a man who grew up in a peaceful Nordic society could be so radicalized. "It's not about him any longer," Seierstad said, adding that the focus was ever more on helping survivors and relatives of the dead. But even she was surprised at the lack of interest in him during the Jan. 10-18 hearing. In many ways, Norwegians are punishing Breivik by remembering the crime but ignoring the man, giving up trying to understand his unrepentant self-justification.

Norwegians often talk merely of "July 22", the date of the massacres, or "Utoeya", the island where he shot dead 69 people, many of them teenagers at a camp of the then ruling Labour Party, after detonating a bomb in Oslo that killed eight. The main group for survivors and relatives of the dead has decided not to comment on this week's case. He won most coverage in Norway on the first day by making a Nazi salute. In the case, Norway argues that it is too risky to allow Breivik contact with other inmates - he might attack them or they might attack him - and compensates him with a three-room cell with a mini-gym, television, newspapers and PlayStation. Only one visitor calls himself a "friend", a 48-year-old priest who has met Breivik about 90 times and is paid to have free-wheeling talks on subjects chosen by Breivik, such as immigration, racism, fascism or Islam. "It's not exactly a position I applied for," the man told the court, asking that he not be named. The two meet separated by a glass wall.

Breivik, who has spent much of the hearing shaking his head, says he wants contact with inmates to stop a drift to becoming what he called "stranger and stranger" in his cell 23 hours a day only meeting guards, health personnel and lawyers. He spends much of his time battling dragons in video games, limited to those with a maximum age limit of 16. "A wand isn't realistic violence. The fantasy is unrealistic - there are dragons," Breivik told the court. Breivik is also studying politics at Oslo University by correspondence. He has mostly got Cs and Bs. He clings to a belief that he is a "commander" on the vanguard of a white supremacist revolution. By contrast, his lawyer, Oeystein Storrvik, encourages modest goals to start meeting other inmates, saying Breivik will never be freed. "Let him play badminton," he suggested.
© Reuters

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Dutch ambassador to Denmark apologises for anti-PVV tweet

17/1/2017- The Dutch ambassador to Denmark has apologised for publishing a tweet in which he made derogatory comments about the anti-Islam party PVV. Ambassador Henk Swarttouw was responding to the news that prime minister Mark Rutte had ruled out his party forming an alliance with the PVV after the March general election. ‘Good news, no more feeding the beast,’ the ambassador, who has nearly 1,200 followers, wrote. On Tuesday Swarttouw apologised directly to the PVV for his comments, saying ‘I used inappropriate wording in my tweet yesterday. Apologies. Not my intention to engage in election campaign.’ Meanwhile, the PVV has asked foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders what the government plans to do to stop this sort of tweets being sent out in the future.

The comment denigrates the millions of Dutch people who support the PVV, he said. Sponsored by Revcontent Trending Articles This is the Reason So Many People Are Cancelling Their Netflix Account No More Ringing In Your Ears If You Do This (Once Daily) Illegal Photos of Life in North Korea That Will Blow Your Mind Do This Every Time You Buy a Lotto Ticket to Win 1/12 Times ! Harrison Ford Has Pretty Much Given Up on His Son. Here's Why! Her Method Allows You To Make About $6,000 Per Week Features Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands How to go Dutch: The waiting continues as the stakes are unexpectedly raised Nice work if you can get it - no wonder so many 20-somethings still live at home Nine Dutch national parks and one nature reserve.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands PM Mark Rutte Rules Out Geert Wilders Deal

Wilders said that Rutte's refusal to work with him demonstrated 'the arrogance of power.'

16/1/2017- The Netherlands’ center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte has ruled out any coalition deal with the far-right populist Geert Wilders after the upcoming March election. Wilders, who leads the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), is surging in the polls, and the two men are vying for first place in impending parliamentary elections, set for March 15. In a marked change from previous refusals to rule out the possibility of a deal with Wilders, Rutte told Dutch television Sunday: “The chances that the VVD [Rutte’s People’s Party For Freedom And Democracy] will rule with PVV are zero. It's not going to happen,” the Financial Times reported. Wilders said on Twitter that Rutte’s insistence against working with him demonstrated “the arrogance of power.” Wilders, whose party is allied in the European Parliament with Marine le Pen’s National Front, sits some way to the right of moderate Rutte. Last year, a Dutch court found Wilders guilty of hate speech over disparaging comments he made about the Netherlands’ Moroccan population. But Rutte and Wilders have worked together before, when Wilders’ party propped up a minority government led by Rutte in 2010. The deal collapsed in 2012.
© Newsweek Europe

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Dutch election threatens to deepen market turmoil

Swing to the right could follow anti-establishment path set by Brexit and Trump

16/1/2017- The Netherlands is about to become a crucible for investor faith in the future of the eurozone project, as the country famed for its liberalism begins a year of European elections with a possible swing to the right. On March 15, Dutch voters will decide whether to follow the anti-establishment path set by the UK and US and elect Geert Wilders, leader of far-right, anti-EU, anti-immigration Party for Freedom as prime minister. Following Britain’s vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s election victory, investors are aware that upcoming elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands have the potential to deliver more market shocks this year. “‘Populism’ will be the buzzword for credit markets in 2017,” says Barnaby Martin, credit strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, while JPMorgan Asset Management regards key elections in Europe as one of the big challenges of the year for global investors?

Yet while French assets are already showing signs of strain ahead of national elections in April and May, and demand for government bonds issued by Italy, Spain and Portugal has dipped to a 12-week low, according to Citi, investors are still buying Dutch assets. The local AEX equity index is up 16 per cent in the past 12 months while 10-year DSLs (Dutch State Loans) are trading just 9 basis points above equivalent German Bunds at 0.41 per cent — compared with a 46 basis point difference between German and French bonds. There is a good reason why investors appear sanguine in the face of a potentially explosive political event, says Lyn Graham-Taylor, senior rates strategist for Dutch bank Rabobank. Regardless of political changes, the Netherlands is underpinned by attractive credit fundamentals that have helped it to keep hold of its rare, gold-plated triple-A credit rating.

Dutch gross domestic product has returned to above-crisis levels, with the latest official forecast for 2017 upgraded to 2.1 per cent, while the country’s debt burden is lower than Germany’s. By mid-2016 Dutch debt to GDP was 64 per cent, compared with Germany’s 70 per cent ratio, according to Eurostat. Debt to GDP is declining, thanks in part to higher than expected tax revenue last year, and the country has been steadily selling down the stakes it took on as the result of the financial crisis. For the second year in a row, Dutch net bond supply will be negative. “That’s why the political situation has so far had no discernible impact on Dutch bonds,” says Mr Graham-Taylor. “It’s a better credit than Germany in many ways. In fact, the reason bonds trade at higher yields to Germany is really just liquidity — it’s easier to get in and out of German bonds.”

In mid-2016 the Netherlands even managed to join a select group of countries able to boast of negative borrowing rates on benchmark 10-year bonds, as yields hit minus 0.0001 per cent amid a worldwide fixed income rally. However, Annabel Schaafsma, an analyst at Moody’s, says there is no reason to think the Netherlands will completely escape market volatility this year. The vote is widely expected to result in a coalition, and other large parties have said they will not work with the Party for Freedom, but if populist parties secure a large number of votes they could still wield greater influence. While equity investors may feel uneasy in such a scenario, certain Dutch assets are likely to benefit from a flight to safety — including structured finance markets for prime mortgages popular with institutional investors. “The Dutch market has often been cited in that way because the credit quality has always been very good,” she said.

The difficulty with predicting the outcome of the election using market moves is that not every layer of uncertainty has been baked into asset prices — meaning there is scope for volatility following the election, according to Mr Martin at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Even if the far-right Party for Freedom does not secure victory, traditional political parties may be encouraged to take a more populist stance. “What 2016 has taught us is that populism means political risk,” he says. Yet credit analysts agree that the bond-buying efforts of the European Central Bank will continue to act as a buffer to credit widening across the eurozone in spite of a possible election upset. The ECB may be tapering bond purchases later this year but it has also extended the end date, which means more market support overall, points out Hermes chief economist Neil Williams. With such a large buyer still in the market, credit spreads between individual eurozone countries should be relatively contained. “Any contagion, unlike 2008, is more likely to be political rather than financial.”
© The Financial Times*

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Dutch Left-wing parties want to protect trangeneders against discrimination

16/1/2017- The D66, PvdA and GroenLinks wants the law to explicitly protect transgender- and intersex people against discrimination. D66 MP Vera Bergkamp, PvdA MP Keklik Yucel and GroenLinks MP Liesbeth van Tongeren submitted a legislative proposal to add that distinction to the law, the Telegraaf reports. "With discrimination protection it should not matter whether people do or do not fit into the standard male-female image", Bergkamp said to the newspaper. According to her, these two groups face large amounts of discrimination - transgenders have a much higher than average unemployment rate, for example. Bergkamp finds it important that they are explicitly protected. "Our proposal provides recognition and and makes it explicit that we are on their side. We also assume that the law will contribute to more knowledge and understanding. Because unknown often means unloved."

This legislative proposal involves a amendment to the Act Equal Treatment. Currently this law mentions discrimination based on "gender" and "heterosexual or homosexual orientation". If the bill succeeds, the law will also mention "gender characteristics", "gender identity" and "gender expression". There are about 85 thousand intersex people in the Netherlands. These are people born with a body that does not have strictly only male or female characteristics. For example, a woman born without a uterus or a man with an extra X chromosome. And there are about 50 thousand transgender Dutch - people who do not identify with the gender characteristics they were born with.
© The NL Times

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German AfD rightist triggers fury with Holocaust memorial comments

18/1/2017- A senior member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) said on Wednesday that media had misrepresented comments he made about Berlin's Holocaust memorial and the need to rewrite history books to focus more on German victims. A speech by Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD's leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, on Tuesday triggered anger across Germany and even caused one member of the radical Left party to report him for incitement to racial hatred. The AfD's anti-immigrant rhetoric has won support among Germans worried about the influx of more than a million migrants in the last two years. With polls putting it on 12-15 percent, the AfD is tipped to win seats in the federal parliament for the first time in September's national election. "Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital," Hoecke, said in a speech to young members of the party in Dresden, the cradle of the anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement.

The Holocaust Memorial, located near the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin, comprises a large number of grey granite slabs of varying heights, arranged in a grid pattern - a somber reminder of the millions killed during the Holocaust. Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Hoecke's speech had sent shivers down his spine. "Never, never must we allow ourselves to let the demagogy of a Bjoern Hoecke go unchallenged," he said. Thomas Oppermann, who heads the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) in the German parliament, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that Hoecke had exposed himself as a Nazi. However, Hoecke said in a statement that any suggestion he had criticised the Holocaust memorial was "a malicious and deliberately denigratory interpretation of what I actually said". He said he had made clear in his comments that the Holocaust was a disgrace and that Germany had a monument to it.

"In my Dresden speech I wanted to ask how we Germans look at our history," he said, adding there were other aspects to German history as well as guilt, such as poets and composers. "This laughable policy of coming to terms with the past is crippling us. We need a 180 degree turnaround in our policy of memory," Hoecke said, drawing applause from young AfD supporters. Re-education imposed on Germany after 1945 had largely pulled up Germans' roots, he said. "There were no German victims any more, only German perpetrators," he said.

Anger
Diether Dehmn, of the Left party, said he was reporting Hoecke for incitement. He also said Hoecke had been emboldened by a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday which rejected a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Burkhard Lischka, the SPD's domestic policy expert, said Hoecke's remarks revealed a growing radicalization of parts of the AfD and urged Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) to place the nationalist wing of the party under observation. "The BfV must finally set its sights on the AfD if it does not want to be accused of being blind in the right eye," he told the Rheinische Post newspaper. Some members of the AfD, which includes moderate conservatives, distanced themselves from Hoecke's comments. "Mr Hoecke's unilateral approach damages the acceptance of the party among citizens," said senior AfD member Alice Weidel. Dieter Graumann, a former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Bild daily Hoecke's speech was "outrageous", especially from a politician in a party set to win seats in parliament.
© Reuters

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Germany’s Extreme Right Challenges Guilt Over Nazi Past

18/1/2017- At a chandelier-lit beer hall on Tuesday evening, the lean blond man’s voice boomed out over a crowd of hundreds — some middle-aged and working-class, but with a contingent of polished young professionals. “The AfD is the last revolutionary, the last peaceful chance for our fatherland,” declared the man, Björn Höcke, referring to the political party Alternative for Germany, and employing a reverential term for Germany, one of several nationalist buzzwords usually shunned in the country’s politics. “Jawohl!” a few shouted. “Yes!” When Mr. Höcke (pronounced HOOK-ay) lamented that “German history is handled as rotten and made to look ridiculous” — a subtle but clear reference to guilt for the Holocaust and other Nazi war crimes — the crowd responded by chanting, “Deutschland, Deutschland.” His speech at the rally in Dresden on Tuesday touched off a wave of national alarm by challenging Germany’s national atonement for the Holocaust and for its Nazi crimes.

His comments drew broad criticism for their venom and because Mr. Höcke, a rising star in the AfD, has found growing success with his messages of extreme nationalism. Shouting to be heard over cheering supporters, many of whom stood, Mr. Höcke challenged the collective national guilt over the war that has restrained German politics for three generations. At times he used language that seemed to hint at lamenting Nazi Germany’s defeat. Germans were “the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in the heart of its capital,” he said, referring to a memorial to murdered Jews in Berlin. He added that Germans had the “mentality of a totally vanquished people.” Mr. Höcke, who began his speech by triumphantly raising his arms over his head, represents the rightward flank of Alternative for Germany, an already far-right party.

But his speech and the crowd’s energetic reception of his words offer a glimpse of the relatively new party’s threat to German politics. He is on the fringe, but that fringe is growing in numbers and in willingness to defy the usual restraints, to the rising alarm of Germany’s establishment leaders, who on Wednesday denounced his comments. Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats and the country’s vice chancellor, shot back in a Facebook post showing a banner splashed across an image of Mr. Höcke standing at a lectern, reading: “To remember the millions of victims of the Nazis is no weakness. Baiting the helpless to promote yourself is weakness.”

The chairman of the Green Party for the state of Saxony, Jürgen Kasek, on Twitter called for the speech to be checked for possible violations of anti-incitement laws. He accused Mr. Höcke of saying things that violated the spirit of the Constitution “in the style of national socialism.” The Central Council of Jews in Germany, in a statement, called the comments “deeply deplorable and fully unacceptable.” Charlotte Knobloch, a former president of the council, told the newspaper Stimme Heilbronner that Mr. Höcke’s speech was “unbearable agitation,” and she warned that “the AfD is poisoning the political culture and social debate in Germany.”

Mr. Höcke’s comments even drew a rebuke from the chairwoman of Alternative for Germany, Frauke Petry, who said they were out of line and “straining” the party. Ms. Petry and Mr. Höcke have been locked in a power struggle for months over how far to the right to position the party, which was originally founded on an anti-euro platform. The party is polling at nearly 15 percent, ahead of some mainstream parties, for this fall’s national election. Its rapid rise demonstrates that German nationalist politics can find a foothold in unexpected places, for example among educated young people like those at Tuesday’s rally. Those 20-somethings, many in coat and tie, looked clean-cut and primly trendy. Most of the men wore their hair buzzed close on the sides and long and floppy on top, separated by a severe side parting that seemed unmistakably evocative of Hitler’s.

Mainstream parties in Germany have long eschewed charisma-driven politics — in the style of personality-centered movements — and have avoided shows of overt nationalism. But that leaves an opening: A populist party like Alternative for Germany can indulge those ideas just enough to excite its supporters without scaring off larger groups of voters. The Alternative for Germany supporters who were gathered in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, seemed animated in a way that is unusual when it comes to modern politics in Germany. Most Germans rarely feel allowed to get excited about their political beliefs or, just as sensitive an issue, about their national identity. The atmosphere lent the evening a feeling of thrilling transgression, as if the act of cheering half-forbidden ideas was as important, or perhaps more so, than the ideas themselves.

Julian M. Wälder, a 21-year-old law student, said he had initially joined the youth league of the Christian Democratic Union, the center-right party to which Chancellor Angela Merkel belongs. But the party did not feel like “real politics,” he said. Alternative for Germany, Mr. Wälder said, finally felt genuine. This is a core part of the party’s message: While other parties are all the same, only Alternative for Germany really expresses the popular will. Mr. Wälder and other young attendees seemed tense — the location of the gathering was kept secret until that morning in a failed attempt to avoid the anti-fascist protesters who often gather outside the semiregular rallies — but they were jovial. The rally on Tuesday felt, if not like a watershed, then a glimpse of a wider, more gradual change.

Calls for asserting a strong national identity are not pernicious on their own — all nations have identities, after all — but they remain somewhat taboo in Germany. And that taboo is precisely the point. Only the fringes would be brazen enough to champion a nationalist identity. But that risks letting those fringes define its contours. Mr. Höcke, for instance, disavowed a famous 1985 speech by Richard von Weizsacker, then the president of Germany, that called for the Allied victory to be seen as the liberation of the German people, not as their defeat. Mr. Höcke called Mr. Weizsacker’s address “a speech against his own people, and not for his own people.” Since 2015, when Germany received nearly a million asylum seekers, Alternative for Germany has sought to portray national identity as under threat from migration and multiculturalism.

Establishment parties and other enemies, Mr. Höcke told the crowd, “are liquidating our beloved German fatherland, like a piece of soap under warm running water. But we, we beloved friends, we patriots, we will close this open tap, and we will win back our Germany, piece by piece.” Yascha Mounk, a lecturer at Harvard and a fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund, said Germany had a style of government that could leave an especially wide opening for fringe parties. Because the German parties tend to govern in a grand, cross-ideological coalition, voters often see little change when parties shift in and out. Politics in Germany usually play out in quiet, polite negotiations among members of the coalition, rather than in dramatic, public clashes between competing parties.

The coalition blocks fringe parties like Alternative for Germany, which can then paint mainstream politics as an elite conspiracy to impose unpopular policies and to shut down real debate. The crowd, at one point, chanted a line Mr. Wälder has also used: “We are the outsiders.” It was a jarring moment, as many of the “outsiders” were young, white and wore suits and ties — seemingly the definition of an insider in Germany. Because these young Germans say that the political establishment has denied them sufficient pride in their national identity, they feel as if they are being oppressed, even though they have every right and live in a country that has one of Europe’s best-performing economies.

But young and old supporters of Alternative for Germany seemed to find something at Tuesday’s rally that is not common among far-right politics: a sense of impending victory. Not in the sense that they would oust Ms. Merkel’s government this fall — she is likely to retain power — but in the belief that their movement would quickly shape and perhaps one day overcome a system that they see as denying them their German pride. Mr. Mounk said that the rise of extremist voices may have been inevitable, given the failure of mainstream parties to satisfy the desires for national self-esteem and for charismatic politics. That left an opening for Mr. Höcke to deliver a message “beyond the usual gripes about being too ashamed of being German,” Mr. Mounk added, “implying, though never quite stating outright, that defeat in 1945 was a bad thing.”

Mr. Höcke concluded his speech on Tuesday with a rallying call. “Beloved friends, we must do little less than make history, so that there will be for us Germans, us Europeans, a future,” he said, as the audience stood, cheered and chanted his name. He added, “We can make history, and we are doing it.”
© The New York Times

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Germany: Court psychiatrist testifies on 'egocentric' behavior of defendant neo-Nazi murders case

A psychiatrist has presented the first part of his assessment of alleged NSU member Zschäpe, finding her mentally sound. The report also marks the beginning of the end for the yearslong case that scandalized Germany.

17/1/2017- Court-appointed psychiatrist Henning Sass presented his highly anticipated evaluation of alleged far-right gang member Beate Zschäpe to the higher regional court in Munich on Tuesday. Early on in his oral remarks to the court, Sass emphasized that he could not identify any significant mental health problems with Zschäpe. Speaking to judges at Munich's regional court on Wednesday, Sass said that the former member of the neo-Nazi group posed a "high risk" for committing actions similar to group members Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt. This diagnosis was valid if her role within the "National Socialist Underground" was described accurately in the indictment and if Zschäpe's statement that she agreed to her comrades' actions only unwillingly was incorrect, he added.

Sass did not specify the extent to which he found Zschäpe's own testimony plausible. However, witnesses' accounts went against the assumption that Zschäpe "bowed to the will of her two companions in such important matters." According to him, the 42-year-old was therefore fully responsible for what had happened. Sass said he could not find any psychological problems that could impact "accountability." He attested that the defendant displays "egocentric" behavioral patterns and that she tends to defer responsibility and trivialize her own behavior. At the same time, however, Zschäpe displays a "healthy self-esteem." Sass said Zschäpe had refused to be interviewed by the psychiatrist, so his findings are based on his observations of her during the trial's 336 proceedings thus far, witness testimonies and Zschäpe's own statements and files. He admitted that direct talks with the defendant would have been preferred.

Reviewing this data, Sass said Zschäpe had a talent for "stealth, concealment and deception" after living underground with her co-accused Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt for 14 years. A psychiatric assessment was ordered after the 42-year-old defendant showed a continued lack of emotion and remained silent during her three-and-a-half-year trial in the southern German city of Munich. Zschäpe is accused, along with two others, of involvement in ten murders, two bombings and 15 bank robberies carried out by the National-Socialist Underground (NSU), a secret neo-Nazi group that operated between 2000 and 2007. Her co-accused, Mundlos and Böhnhardt, died in an apparent murder-suicide in 2011. Sass cited witness statements that said Zschäpe could always "control her boys," referencing Mundlos and Böhnhardt. A second part of Sass' assessment will be presented to the court on Wednesday. In a draft of the report sent to the court, Sass already said he believes Zschäpe is criminally liable and responsible for her actions. The court will use Sass' report to help determine Zschäpe's risk of reoffending, as well as her level of guilt in the crimes.

Zschäpe trial in final stage
The 42-year-old Zschäpe has admitted to an arson charge, but has ardently denied committing the murders. Prosecutors believe that she aided in bank robberies and bomb attacks and that she helped cover the fellow suspects' tracks after the killings were committed. Commentators said Sass' report is likely to strongly influence the sentence handed down to Zschäpe. It was delayed several times because of applications from the defense. Zschäpe faces life in prison if convicted. Four other junior members of the NSU are on trial with Zschäpe.

After staying silent during most of her three-year trial, Zschäpe told the court last September that having been drawn in to nationalist ideology as a young woman in eastern Germany after reunification, she had turned away from far-right ideology. But the short statement made no reference to her alleged crimes. Investigators say the NSU was behind the murder of eight Turkish-Germans, a Greek migrant and a German policewoman. The group is also believed to have carried out a series of nail-bomb attacks in immigrant neighborhoods.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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German court that rejected a ban on political party accused of having Neo-Nazi links

17/1/2017- Germany's Constitutional Court on Tuesday said the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) resembled 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 sent a signal that legitimized the spread of hatred. While the court said the NPD's aims, viewed by Germany's intelligence agency as racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist, violated the constitution, it said there was insufficient evidence that it could succeed and this made 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 in September, the NPD has been eclipsed on the right end of the political spectrum by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) - which has seen support jump as high as 15 percent in opinion polls - and it has failed to capitalize on the refugee crisis. The court said it looked "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 Tuesday's 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 is 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 CommunistParty in 1956 in West Germany.

Nazi Ties
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 sent 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 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 earlier attempt to ban the NPD in 2003 collapsed because some of theparty 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 (NSU), blamed for killing nine immigrants and a police woman between 2000 and 2007.
© Reuters

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Germany: Top court rejects bid to ban far-right party

Germany's highest court on Tuesday threw out a bid to ban the far-right NPD party, arguing that the xenophobic fringe outfit is too insignificant to spell a real threat to the democratic order.

17/1/2017- "The request has been rejected," said Federal Constitutional Court top judge Andreas Vosskuhle about the bid to ban the neo-Nazi party, which has around 6,000 members. He added that "the NPD pursues anti-constitutional goals, but there is currently no concrete evidence... to suggest that it will succeed." The case marks the second failed attempt to outlaw the National Democratic Party of Germany, with the latest launched by the Bundesrat upper house of parliament which represents Germany's 16 states. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government supported the case, although the executive did not formally join the high-stakes legal maneuver. The Bundesrat had launched the challenge in 2013, as the country was reeling in shock over the 2011 discovery of a murderous group calling itself the National Socialist Underground.

Racist killings by the group had prompted Germany to crack down against right-wing extremism. But since then, the NPD has lost its remaining seats in state parliaments, retaining just one representative, Udo Voigt, in the European Parliament. It has also lost ground to the anti-euro fringe party AfD, which has morphed into an anti-immigration force railing against the mass arrivals of refugees in 2015. Polls now credit the NPD with around 1.0 percent support, compared with 12 to 15 percent for the right-wing populist AfD (Alternative for Germany).

High hurdles for ban
But the International Auschwitz Committee's vice president Christoph Heubner voiced dismay at the ruling, warning that it could spur extremists across Europe to champion more hate. "How can it be that those who cheerfully celebrate the Holocaust and provoke new episodes of hatred in many municipalities may remain in the democratic spectrum?" he asked. "This reality-blind and untimely decision sends a disastrous signal to Europe, where far-right and right-wing populists have found new partnerships and are now trying to transform the fear and insecurity of the population into hatred and aggression," he warned in a statement. For the court, "banning a party does not equate to banning an ethos or a world view."

"The party's battle against the democratic order would need to surpass a threshold" to warrant prohibition, said Vosskuhle, the Constitutional Court top judge. "There must be a systematic approach aimed at destroying or eliminating the liberal democratic constitution or threatening the existence of Germany," he said, noting that the threat had to be credible. With an eye cast back at the elimination of dissent in Hitler's Germany, the drafters of the post-war constitution set high hurdles for banning a party. Only two political parties have been outlawed since 1945: the SRP, a Nazi successor party, in 1952, and the West German Communist Party (KPD) in 1956.

'Germany for Germans'
Founded in 1964 as a successor to the neo-fascist German Reich Party, the NPD calls for "the survival and continued existence of the German people in its ancestral central European living space" - or simply, "Germany for the Germans". Such language flirts with the turns of phrase used by the Nazis. For the Bundesrat, the group creates a "climate of fear", "shares essential characteristics" with the Nazis and "wants to destabilise and overthrow the liberal-democratic order". Germany's domestic intelligence services classify the ultra-nationalist NPD as a far-right party. Things however have changed in German politics since the launch of the second case against the NPD in 2013.

The AfD has brushed the NPD to the fringes, and the populist movement could see members elected to the parliament in Berlin at polls later this year - something no similar party has managed since 1945. Many politicians and media commentators say parties such as the NPD must be beaten in the battle of ideas. "It's up to politics and civil society, not the courts," the centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung daily commented. "Hating foreigners cannot be banned, no law can help against radicalisation reaching the centre of society." What's more, the newspaper argued, banning the NPD risked sending a signal to "autocrats" abroad, who could point to the decision to justify crushing the opposition.
© The Local - Germany

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UK: 20 homophobic hate crimes a day in England and Wales

Data published today shows that the number of recorded homophobic hate crimes in England and Wales has surged.

19/1/2017- The Home Office data on hate crimes was published today via an annual crime statistics report. The report reveals that 7,194 hate crimes based on sexual orientation were recorded during the 2015-16 financial year, equating to 20 incidents every day. 1,844 homophobic hate crimes were recorded by London’s police force, the Metropolitan Police, while 494 were recorded in Greater Manchester and 372 in the West Midlands. British Transport Police, the national police service for the railways, reported 203 incidents – more than one homophobic incident every two days. 1428 transphobic hate crimes were reported across all police forces, remaining stable with the level of reporting in previous years. Including all forms of hate crime, 62,518 incidents were recorded across 12 months, up 19% from the year ending 2016. The Office of National Statistics explained that the increase may partly be due to “greater awareness of hate crime and improved willingness of victims to come forward” alongside police officers improving hate crime reporting standards”for violence against the person and public order offences”.

But Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Brian Paddick, who was previously the United Kingdom’s most senior openly gay police officer, said the figures represent a worrying trend. Lord Paddick said: “This data shows 1200 hate crimes a week happening in the UK. This is a very worrying trend that we should all be worried about. “I am convinced that the rise of populism and nationalism is creating a climate that encourages attacks on the vulnerable. These attacks are not just motivated by racism and religion, they include homophobic attacks and attacks on the disabled. “Politicians all have a responsibility to make it clear that xenophobic and racist behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated” “The government must address the root causes of this growing intolerance as well as ensuring the police response is sufficient and effective.”
© The Pink News

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German police investigating ‘neo-Nazi terror plot’ after bomb branded with swastika discovered

The suspects are believed to support a group that planned attacks on refugee centres and mosques

14/1/2017- Two alleged supporters of a neo-Nazi terrorist group have been arrested after 155kg of explosives were discovered in Germany. One suspect had built a homemade bomb emblazoned with a swastika and symbol of the Nazi SS, prosecutors announced on Saturday. The men, aged 18 and 24, were arrested after the explosives were discovered inside a house in Lauterecken, causing more than 80 local residents to be evacuated from the surrounding area so the material could be safely removed. The pair denied planning a terror attack when they were arrested in December, SWR television reported, claiming to be amateur pyrotechnics preparing for a New Year’s Eve firework display. The two men, of German origin, are being held on suspicion of violating explosives laws and preparing a “serious act of state-threatening violence”.

Prosecutors are examining a possible link to the Oldschool Society (OSS), an extremist organisation known to have planned attacks on refugee centres and mosques since it emerged in 2014. A spokesperson said the teenage suspect told investigators he had attended an OSS meeting in Rhineland-Palatinate state over the summer, the DPA news agency reported. Four members of the group are already on trial in Munich for allegedly planning an attack on asylum seekers. Federal prosecutors charged the three men and a woman with “establishing a terror organisation” and preparing attacks using explosives in January 2015. Officials said members had planned to bomb refugee accommodation in the German town of Borna, and travelled to the Czech Republic to buy pyrotechnics which they planned to make into bombs packed with nails and fuel. The interior ministry has classified the OSS as a dangerous organisation but it was also dubbed the “stupidest terror group in Germany” by media reporting that members discussed plots openly on Facebook.

A rise in extremism has been documented in Germany since the start of the refugee crisis and a series of terror attacks, with far-right groups including Pegida staging protests against immigration and the “Islamification of Europe”. Numerous attacks on refugee centres have been documented as part of a rise in political violence by both the right and left wing. German security services also remain on alert for possible Isis-inspired terror attacks following the massacre at a Berlin Christmas market and two previous attacks over the summer.
© The Independent

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UK: Prepare for new surge in hate crimes against EU citizens, says human rights watchdog

UK human rights watchdog says police should be prepared for backlash against EU citizens when article 50 is triggered

18/1/2017- Britain should prepare for a fresh spike in hate crimes against EU citizens when the article 50 process triggering Brexit begins, the human rights watchdog has said. David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), told a hearing of MPs he was worried the start of formally leaving the bloc could cause a backlash against EU citizens, similar to the period of increased hate crime that followed the EU referendum, and was calling on police to be prepared for such an eventuality. Theresa May has promised to trigger article 50 before the end of March but it could come earlier than that now she has set out her plans to leave the single market in order to secure immigration controls and remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European court of justice. The government is now awaiting the outcome of a supreme court decision about whether parliament will have to pass an act approving Brexit before it can go ahead.

Ahead of that ruling, Isaac told MPs on the women and equalities committee that the EHRC was “hugely concerned about what might happen in relation to an increase in hate crime” when article 50 is triggered. “And so, to give you examples of what we are seeking to do, we are meeting with groups, we are seeking to ensure that there is as much police protection and understanding in relation to hate crimes as is possible,” he said. “And, I think, given our role, I believe, we are uniquely placed to be doing all of this at a time when Britain needs guidance in relation to huge anxiety that resides, not just in relation to non-UK citizens and our visitors, but actually many of our own citizens.” Highlighting the rise in hate crime over the summer, he said: “One of the things that concerns us greatly is the position in relation to the spike in hate crimes since 23 June. I’ve met with the Polish ambassador, my opposite number in Poland, because of the large number of attacks against the Polish community, but I am also in touch with various other groups.”

The prime minister’s spokeswoman said the government would “certainly not want” a surge in hate crimes, when asked if May shared Isaac’s concerns. “The prime minister has taken a very strong and clear stance on our commitment to continuing to be an open and tolerant nation and to stamp out hate crime wherever it exists,” she said. “What is important is the approach we have taken of consistently and repeatedly saying that hate crime is completely unacceptable, and that the outcome of the referendum was not a vote to become inward-looking and to stop being an open and tolerant nation. We will continue to champion those values and stand up for them.” Joanna Mludzinska, a Polish community leader, warned last week that a “wave” of hate crimes against European migrants could follow the start of Britain’s exit from the EU.

The chair of the Polish Social and Cultural Association told MPs on the Commons home affairs committee that triggering article 50 could act as a “flashpoint” for new xenophobic attacks. Mludzinska said: “Where those people who for whatever reason thought everything would be resolved by Brexit find that doesn’t miraculously happen ... there might be another wave of response... ‘Why aren’t we getting what we wanted, and why are they still here?’” At the hearing, Yvette Cooper, the committee’s chair, said details of hate crime incidents heard by her committee were appalling. “Hate crime is appalling, un-British and should have no place in our country,” she said.
© The Guardian.

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UK: Antisemite, Holocaust denier … yet David Irving claims fresh support

In advance of a film about the trial that bankrupted him, the historian is boasting that his views have found a new generation of admirers

15/1/2017- Sixteen years after an English court discredited his work and the judge called him “antisemitic and racist”, the historian David Irving claims he is inspiring a new generation of “Holocaust sceptics”. On the eve of a major new Bafta-nominated film about the trial, Irving, who has dismissed what happened at Auschwitz concentration camp during the second world war as “Disneyland”, says that a whole new generation of young people have discovered his work via the internet and social media. “Interest in my work has risen exponentially in the last two or three years. And it’s mostly young people. I’m getting messages from 14, 15, 16-year-olds in America. They find me on YouTube. There are 220 of my lectures on YouTube, I believe, and these young people tell me how they’ve stayed up all night watching them. “They get in touch because they want to find out the truth about Hitler and the second world war. They ask all sorts of questions. I’m getting up to 300 to 400 emails a day. And I answer them all. I build a relationship with them.”

Irving v Penguin Books Ltd was one of the most infamous libel trials of the past 20 years. An American historian, Deborah Lipstadt, had accused him in her book, Denying the Holocaust, and Irving, then a somewhat respected if maverick  historian, sued her and her publisher. The film, Denial, with a script by David Hare, is released at the end of this month and stars Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spall as Irving. It depicts how Lipstadt’s legal team fought the case. James Libson, a junior solicitor in the case and now a senior partner at Mishcon de Reya, said that the verdict seemed “momentous at the time”. Lipstadt won, with the judge concluding that Irving was an antisemitic, racist Holocaust denier. He was forced to declare bankruptcy and his scholarly reputation was shattered.

“We really thought the verdict marked a line in the sand,” says Libson. “That it marked Holocaust denial as a done subject. We’d proven it, conclusively, in a court of law. “We naively thought that the internet would help that. All the material from the case was published online and we thought that would provide sufficient answer to anyone who could possibly doubt it. Whereas, of course, the internet has actually done the opposite. Libson was assisting Anthony Julius in the case – another Mishcon lawyer who had made his name representing Princess Diana in her divorce. “I wasn’t aware until recently of how Holocaust denial has now taken off online again to such an extent. I was really excited to watch the trailer for the film and I couldn’t believe the number of absolutely vile comments beneath it – about the holohoax and so on, more than 4,000 of them. It’s incredibly disturbing. It’s actually way worse now than even Irving was because they’re so abusive.”

Irving lost the case – and another that he brought against the Observer over a review by Gita Sereny – but speaking from his home in the Scottish Highlands, a 40-room mansion near Nairn provided by an anonymous benefactor, he says that history has “vindicated” him. “History evolves. The truth about the Holocaust is gradually coming out. And this is thanks to the internet. It’s how this new generation finds me. There’s a general belief among people out there that they are being misled. The people I’ve called the traditional enemy [Irving’s term for Jews] are very worried about this phenomenon. They don’t have a handle on it. “Newspapers are dying. And the internet is suddenly there. And they don’t have an answer for it. It’s like some ugly weed they don’t know how to deal with. Eventually they will hack it down but by then it may be too late.”

Google, which owns YouTube, has come under pressure for disseminating hate speech about Jews and promoting Holocaust denial after the Observer revealed that its top results for searches around the Holocaust were directing people to denial sites. After weeks of pressure, Google agreed to make changes to its algorithm, but they are far from comprehensive. Google auto-complete still suggests the Holocaust is a “lie” and a “hoax” and still directs to neo-Nazi websites such as Stormfront, where Irving is considered an authority on the subject. He also has a presence on Facebook, where his page has gathered more than 7,000 likes.

Lipstadt said the idea that Irving had been vindicated by history was “preposterous”. “There was nothing, zilch, in the historical claims that he made. We proved that. But this is the world we are living in. Where facts don’t matter any more … and it’s absolutely terrifying. “I’ve no idea of knowing if his claims about his newfound popularity are true or not but you’d have to be living under a rock not to see that this proliferation of racism and antisemitism is being disseminated by the internet. “This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It’s about truth and lies.” Irving, however, says that he is speaking to people who have lost trust in mainstream sources of information. “It’s all to do with this phenomenon of people not trusting what they are told by their governments and newspapers. They seek around to find someone who provides some remedy to this. And they find me.

“I am part of the remedy. It’s not just that I’m selling huge amounts of books around the world. One of the big changes of the last two years is the amount I’m getting in donations. “It used to be small amounts, and they still come in, but people are now giving me very large sums indeed – five-figure sums. I now drive a Rolls-Royce. A beautiful car. Though money is completely unimportant to me.” His new fans, he says, are the same people who in the US are supporting Donald Trump, who he believes will make a good president and “has his heart in the right place”. Though, he says, he is also impressed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. “The Labour party is tearing itself apart with these allegations about antisemitism,” he says, “but Corbyn seems like a very fine man. Maybe it’s because he’s near my age, but I’m impressed by him.”
© The Guardian

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UK: Muslim woman spat on in restaurant says female hate victims must speak out

‘It’s important for Muslim women themselves to have a voice in this narrative and actually set the record straight that we aren’t the threat,’ says Nahella Ashraf

14/1/2017- A Muslim woman who was racially assaulted and spat on by a stranger in a restaurant has urged more female Muslims who have experienced hate crime to speak out. Nahella Ashraf, 46, was wearing a head scarf when she was attacked as she sat around a table with four friends in the restaurant in Hammersmith, London. Ms Ashraf, from Manchester, was left “shaken” after a man sitting behind her, who was “smartly dressed and well put together”, grabbed her from the side and tried to pull her out of her seat, before launching a barrage of racist remarks and spitting in her face. “We’d been in there for about 45 minutes and we’d all finished eating. There was a guy sat behind me. I assumed he was getting up to leave but he grabbed me and was screaming at me,” she told The Independent.

“He just grabbed me from the side, my arm. It felt like he was trying to pull me out of my seat. The first thing I remember him saying was something about him not tolerating people like me. Right in my face. “It all happened really fast. I think the guys behind the counter came out straight away, and got between him and me. “They asked him what his problem was. He said ‘It’s not me, how can you have her in here?’ and then he spat at me. He leaned forward past this guy and he spat in my face. “As soon as he did that they started pushing him out. As they were pushing him out, he was just saying something like: ‘Her kind of people kill people’ and ‘They’re the problem’ kind of thing. “It was racist. He kept saying ‘those kinds of people’. He could’ve grabbed the white woman on the side of me that would’ve been easier, but he went for the Muslim woman in the crowd.”

Police were called to the incident but the suspect had already fled the scene. Officers were treating the incident as a racially motivated hate crime. Ms Ashraf, who had been working in London during the week as part of her job as a researcher, said it was the first time she had been physically assaulted because of her race, adding that she was particularly shocked that it had happened in such a public setting. “I was really shaken up. I was really shocked that it happened somewhere in public,” she said. “I’ve had people walk past me and shout abuse, but it had never been to the extent that they’ve physically touched me. “You think it might happen when you’re walking late at night on your own. I’d heard people make comments about me on a bus or a train before, but never when you’re in a group.”

She added the experience had made her realise that while many female Muslim victims of race hate crime choose not to talk about their experience, it was important for victims of such crimes to speak out in order to “set the record straight”. “Initially I thought I didn’t want to talk about it. But actually it makes me think if it can happen to me in the centre of London, it’s happening everywhere. People just don’t seem able to talk about it,” said Ms Ashraf. “I think it’s important that we do talk about it. I think it’s important for Muslim women themselves to have a voice in this narrative and actually set the record straight that we aren’t the threat.” The researcher, who is a member of campaign organisation Stand Up To Racism, said she and her Muslim friends had noticed a marked rise in hate crime against them since the EU referendum, but that it had been steadily rising in recent years.

“I think we’ve seen more since the referendum, there’s no doubt about it. Especially in the first couple of weeks. But definitely over the last couple of years we’ve become more cautious when we’re out and about,” she said. “A lot of Muslims I know, especially my female Muslim friends, have commented on how it’s gotten worse. We’re a bit more careful about where we go. We’re an easy target nowadays. “It seems to happen more to Muslim women than to Muslim men, and it’s usually men who are targeting us. “I think the fact that it’s okay for the media to talk about how we dress ... for any other women it’s not really acceptable to comment on how they dress, but when it comes to Muslim women, it’s seen as open season. “There's this idea that we’re all submissive and we’re all forced to dress the way we do and we don’t have a voice, and that it’s okay for the rest of the world to speak about us on our behalf and make judgements about us. “The idea that I’m somehow against British values is just rubbish.”

In response to the attack, Stand Up To Racism’s West London branch held a vigil in Hammersmith in protest against such racist incidents. ​Balwinder Rana, convener of Stand Up To Racism in West London, told The Independent the organisation had seen a noticeable rise in hate crimes since the EU referendum. Mr Rana said: “We were very shocked to hear about this incident. Just a few months ago there was a crime against a Polish centre on the same road. “We held a vigil in the area to show solidarity, and I was very pleased with the outcome. Nearly 40 people came out in the cold, and we had a fantastic response from passers-by. Many locals signed up to aid our cause. “The atmosphere around here has changed since the referendum. There has been a spike in these kinds of crimes. Politicians, and also the media, are mainly to blame for spreading the idea that migrants are to blame for the nation’s problems. “Nahella was born and bred in Manchester – so this is affecting more than just migrants. There’s a toxic atmosphere of fear, and we’re doing all we can to curb this sentiment.”

There was a sharp increase in the number of racially or religiously aggravated crimes recorded by police in England and Wales following the EU referendum, with a 41 per cent rise in July 2016 compared to the same month the year before. A survey carried out in December showed most British people believe hate crime had got worse since the referendum, with 58 per cent feeling they had increased since the referendum in June and 76 per cent believing hate crime was a problem in the UK today.
© The Independent

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Swedish company rues 'white power' merchandise blunder

A Swedish advertising company has been caught in an embarrassing mix-up after it released a product with the phrase "white power" printed on it as part of a new range of merchandise for a handball team.

17/1/2017- The product in question is a portable charger – also known as a powerbank – which is part of a new collection produced by agency Anderzson of Sweden for Ystads IF. The charger features the club’s logo, the Swedish hashtag “#vitahjärtat” (the white heart) and the phrase “White power!” written in English. When local paper Ystads Allehanda pointed out that the phrase is one used by white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements, the advertising agency realized its blunder. Their intention was to link the team's iconic white matchday colours and nickname "the white heart" with a device designed to provide power, “When we developed the powerbank we had the club logo and #vitahjärtat but wanted to clarify that the product was a charger for mobile devices.

From a Swedish and Ystad point of view there has never been any talk of a connection to the foreign movement which someone compared it with. It is a supporter gadget to charge your mobile phone, quite simply,” the company’s managing director Jonas Andersson told The Local. “The text in question has now been taken off the product and replaced in line with similar products in the supporter shop. We can only regret that this became such a big misunderstanding,” he added. The Anderzson boss said he felt that unfair links between the company and racism had been made by Swedish media.

“It is important to emphasize that neither Ystads IF nor Anderzson of Sweden AB have or have had any racist views. We have never even been linked to that. The opposite: we have helped with integration and donated a lot of clothing to help people in different forums. For us, all people are equally valuable.” “The image which has now appeared in the media therefore feels unfairly angled, if you look at all of the products and the product in question.”
© The Local - Sweden

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Swedish party expels politicians for 'Camp Auschwitz' flag

Two Swedish politicians have been asked to leave the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party after one loaded up a picture on Facebook of a man holding a flag saying “Camp Auschwitz”.

14/1/2017- The anti-racist site Inte Racist, Men…(Not racist but…) on Friday reported the post by Monica Evertson, who along with her husband Peter, represents the populist party in Sävsjö, a small town in Småland. The site reported that the man holding the sign had shared a campsite with the couple at the Kuggnäs Festival. Henrik Vinge, the party’s head of press, told TT that the party intended to expel the couple. ”The local party organisation has been requested to invite these people to leave the party. If this call is not heeded, the issue will be brought up in the party's membership committee on Monday,” he said in a statement reported by Sweden's TT newswire. “This procedure could lead to people getting their membership canceled.”

The Inte Racist, Men exposé also quoted a string of racist comments Monica Evertson had made on Facebook, including one where she declared that that she “couldn’t bear to have [my] wallet stolen (by a negro)”. One of her friends commented “Everything becomes so much worse when a negro is involved,” at which the politician replied “Too right!”. According to the anti-racist site Monica Evertson has a background in the National Democrats or Nationaldemokraterna, a far-Right party which was closed down in 2014. In 2010, she also had an account on the Nordisk.nu far-Right forum.
© The Local - Sweden

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Austria's far-right Freedom Party calls for ban on 'fascistic Islam'

14/1/2017- The head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) on Saturday called for a law banning "fascistic Islam" and Muslim symbols, comparable to an existing law banning Nazi symbols, saying Islam could wipe out European society. Austria needs "a law which prohibits fascistic Islam", Heinz Christian Strache told several thousand supporters at the party's new year meeting in Salzburg. "Let us put an end to this policy of Islamization... otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end," Strache said, in an apparent reference to the course pursued by the coalition government. The junior coalition party OVP called on Wednesday for halving the number of asylum applications accepted this year to around 17,000. Strache responded by saying: "We need zero and minus immigration." Any law against extreme elements of Islam should be similar to the law Austria introduced after WW2 banning the Nazi Party and Nazi symbols, a party spokesman said when asked for clarification.

The Freedom Party's anti-Muslim message has been well-received by a large minority of Austria's electorate. Its presidential candidate Norbert Hofer was defeated in a run-off vote last month but gained 47 percent support. The nation of 8.7 million people has received more than 130,000 claims for asylum from people fleeing war and poverty in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2015. About 600,000 Muslims, some of whom arrived during Europe's migration crisis, live in Austria. The party, which has long called for a ban on face veils, also called for changing the way refugees are taken care of. The state, not NGOs like the Catholic charity Caritas, should be in charge of their care to make sure money is spent efficiently, Hofer himself said at the same event on Saturday.
© Reuters

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Headlines 13 January, 2017

Russia: Author gay propaganda law is now pushing to let men beat their wives

Russia’s Parliament has greenlit a law from the author of Russia’s law banning so-called ‘gay propaganda’ law – this time to make domestic violence legal.

13/1/2017- Yelena Mizulina, an ultra-conservative member of the Russian Parliament, authored the 2013 bill which banned the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors. She was hailed as a “hero” by anti-LGBT groups from the United States, with the anti-LGBT World Congress of Families presenting her with a medal for her activism. The same lawmaker is now behind efforts that are expected to soften offences for men to beat their wives and children in the country. Mizulina, who heads the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs, has introduced legislation which would decriminalise domestic violence, currently punishable by up to two years in jail. Her proposal, which would reduce punishments for spousal or child abuse to misdemeanour or administrative offences, passed through the Parliament’s lower house this week by a near unanimous vote of 368-2.

Mizulina said penalties for offences should not “contradict the system of social values that society holds on to”, insisting that domestic violence “is a normal way of life” She told the Moscow Times: “In Russian traditional family culture parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents’ power… The laws should support that family tradition.” Groups that help victims of domestic violence say they expect the changes to lead to an upswing in incidents. Olga Yurkova, the head of the ‘Sisters’ women’s refuge, warbned: “A huge number of women tolerate domestic violence but do not bring it out to the public. The decriminalisation will worsen the situation.” Russia got a dire warning earlier this month about its growing HIV epidemic.
© Pink News

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Europe erects defenses to counter Russia's information war

12/1/2017- Nations in Europe, where Germany and France this year hold elections, are erecting defenses to counter possible Russian cyber attacks and disinformation to sway Western politics, but intelligence experts say this might be too little and too late. The issue of Russian "influence operations" has taken on new urgency after U.S. intelligence agencies released a non-classified assessment that President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to move the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump. European nations and NATO are setting up centers to identify "fake news", bolstering cyber defenses and tracking use of social media which target Russian-speaking communities, far-right groups, political parties, voters and decision-makers.

Russia denies cyber warfare and Internet campaigns targeting Western governments. Kremlin watchers say affecting the U.S. election could bring reward for Moscow, while stakes would not be so high in German and French elections. German intelligence officials, however, say there has been Russian support for euroskeptic, anti-immigrant parties in Germany and across the EU. Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could not rule out Russia interfering in this year's election. "We can’t exclude that operations of the same nature seen in the United States aim to disturb the French electoral system," France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said in a recent interview. "I urge everyone to install the greatest vigilance."

One senior European Union official, who declined to be named, said there was no doubt Moscow would bolster far-right and populist parties in elections across Europe in 2017. The official cited the triggering of a resounding "No" given to the EU planned association treaty with Ukraine in a Dutch vote. "We see disinformation attacks before every vote that is of interest for the Kremlin," a second EU source said. "Very often the vote that follows ... turns out in favor of the Kremlin." State-sponsored television station Russia Today, active and expanding across Europe, plays a key role, but Moscow uses a range of avenues, including social media, as well as backing for non-governmental groups, Western intelligence experts say.

Off Guard, Mix of Methods
Stefan Meister of the German Council on Foreign Relations said German intelligence agencies had been caught off guard. "We have a whole mix of activities that neither the
intelligence services nor the politicians can completely understand and categorize," he said. "They’re just starting to understand it and find solutions." The EU foreign service is slated to expand a 30-person strategic communications office set up in March 2015 to counter what it sees as fake news and Russian campaigns for influence. The second EU source said the effort was "a badly under-funded, tiny team with close to no support", and added Brussels did not see Russian intervention as a priority. Individual members are now setting up their own offices to monitor and respond to disinformation, including the Czech Republic, which set up a 20-member team on Jan. 1.

Berlin is considering an office to evaluate fake news, but that effort has already run into political concerns that the government is setting up a "truth ministry" that would limit free speech or influence national elections. German intelligence cited the high-profile case of a German-Russian girl who Russian media said was kidnapped and raped by migrants in Berlin, a claim later refuted by German authorities. The case underscored mutual suspicion between Moscow and Berlin. Some other countries banned Russian-language television from broadcasting for spreading disinformation or inciting hatred. Lithuania, Latvia, Britain, Estonia and Denmark have also urged the EU to create news sources for Russian speakers.

In Latvia, facing municipal elections in June, officials cite a barrage of propaganda aimed at 500,000 Russian speakers and a cooperation agreement between the pro-Russian opposition party Harmony with Putin's United Russia party. Lithuania this week said it had barred construction of a data center for cloud computer operations last year over concerns it could be infiltrated by Russian intelligence once it was connected by fiber-optic cable to Russia. Solvita Aboltina, head of the national security committee in the Latvian parliament and a key national security adviser to the Latvian president, said the threat of cyber attacks was far greater than the risk of a military invasion. "This a very important and urgent question on the agenda," she said. "The American election is clear proof of that."

NATO Worries
Outside the political arena, there are worries in defense circles about the activities of hackers loyal to Putin, himself a former spy chief. NATO says it has seen a five-fold increase in suspicious events on its networks in the past three years. German officials say a hack in December of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) used methods seen in a 2015 hack of the German parliament that was linked to APT28, a Russian hacker group, blamed for U.S. election hacks. "We are already at war, and for many years," Darius Jauniskis, head of Lithuania's counter-intelligence State Security Department told Reuters in an interview. Cyber security is a pressing concern for NATO, whose ambassadors discussed specific fears raised by Germany about Russian election interference in December, two diplomats said. France and Germany recently set up cyber warfare units, and NATO officials have told Reuters they suspect Russia sponsors attacks against their networks before key summits.
© Reuters

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European Right-wing parties' Germany congress bars many journalists

German organisers of a meeting of European right-wing populist and anti-immigration parties said Thursday they would bar a number of journalists they deem hostile, sparking protests from media groups.

13/1/2017- The Alterative for Germany (AfD) plans to meet France's far-right chief Marine Le Pen, Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders and Italy's Matteo Salvini of the Northern League on January 21 in the western city of Koblenz. The AfD's Marcus Pretzell, a co-organiser of the conference for some 1,000 delegates, announced that all publicly funded media would be barred, reported German news agency DPA. Reporters from German news weekly Der Spiegel, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, business newspaper Handelsblatt and the magazine Compact had also been denied accreditation, said Pretzell, a regional party leader. Pretzell charged in comments to DPA that public broadcasters were biased against them and could produce their "scripted" stories without having access to the conference.

While the banned journalists would not be able to cover speeches by AfD leader Frauke Petry, Le Pen, Wilders and others, all would be able to attend press conferences, he said. Chief editors of German public broadcaster ARD accused organisers of the meeting of "massive interference in media freedom" and said they may take legal action. German Journalists' Association chairman Frank Ueberall said political parties that shape public life have an obligation to allow open press coverage. The AfD, which opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy, has enjoyed a surge in support in a series of state elections over the past year. Ahead of general elections likely to be held in September, the party is polling at around 15 percent.
© AFP

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Slovenia Aliens Act Proposal Worries Croatia

Croatian experts fear Slovenia's planned changes to the Aliens Act, heralding stricter procedures towards refugees and asylum seekers, could create problems for it.

12/1/2017- Slovenian plans to toughen its procedures for receiving refugees and asylum seekers worries activists and migrant experts in Croatia, where it is feared that the changes could cause additional problems. Experts told BIRN that Slovenia’s move would endanger the rights and security of refugees traveling to Western Europe along the "Balkan route" but would not end migration per se. Milena Zajovic, from the Croatian NGO "Are You Syrious", told BIRN that asylum seekers and refugees will continue to cross the border between Slovenia and Croatia illegally. Stricter rules “won’t change anything but will further lower the level of their lives and put their security at risk”, she said.

The Slovenian government backed an amendment to the existing Aliens Act on Thursday, introducing stricter procedures towards asylum seekers and refugees for a special six-month period – with a possible extension for another six months. It is likely to be backed by the country's parliament in which the plan enjoys cross-party support. Although the procedure would not apply to persons whose life is in danger if they are returned to their native countries, or unaccompanied minors, the provisions will empower police officers to refuse entry to most asylum seekers on the border. Zajovic said Slovenia was trying to imitate recent moves by Hungary, which were unfortunately now being copied by the majority of countries on the "Balkan route", including Croatia, "where we have witnessed a lot of cases in which Croatian police deported refugees to Serbia without proper procedure”. She explained that people returned to Croatia from Slovenia and Austria usually find illegal ways to resume their journeys after turning to people smugglers.

Zajovic said it was also unclear in terms of international law if border police can seriously assess “if someone’s life is in danger”. Vedrana Baricevic, from the Zagreb Centre for the Study of Ethnicity, Citizenship and Migration, CEDIM, said it was worrying what kind of measures Croatia could introduce as a reaction to the Slovenian ones. “What we have experienced along the 'Balkan route' is a sort of a ‘domino effect’; restrictions by one state are soon introduced by others. So, there is a chance for something like that,” she told BIRN. Baricevic warned that similar policies already exist on the Croatian border, with reports of asylum seekers being rejected by police. “Although it shouldn’t be so in terms of laws, in practice the police assess individual cases on the border and then a range of peculiar decisions are passed,” she concluded.

Besides tasking the military to patrol the border in October 2015, Slovenia erected a barbed wire fence in November 2015. The refugee crisis later virtually ended with the simultaneous closure of borders to most migrants in March 2016. The proposed Aliens Act amendment will likely be passed by the parliament in Slovenia since both the government parties and the strongest opposition party, the centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party, SDS, have said they will back it. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, wrote to the Slovenian Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, on Wednesday, voicing concern that the proposal would cause issues with the European Convention on Human Rights, considering the “right to due process, the consideration of individual circumstances in the processing of applications and protection of all migrants and asylum seekers against ill-treatment”.

Thorbjorn offered the assistance of his special representative on refugees and migration, Tomas Bocek, to help the Slovenian government resolve the matter. Amnesty International, as well as other human rights NGOs, have also raised concerns regarding the announced law, claiming it strips refugees of their due rights according to international and EU laws.
© Balkan Insight

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Netherlands: Islamic elementary school attacked

13/1/2017- An elementary school attended by Muslim children in Amsterdam was attacked during the semester break. As-Siddieq Islamic School was hit by eight rounds of bullets on the wall. The armed attack was noticed on the day the spring semester began. The police have been investigating the incident. One of the children who had been educated at school said that they had seen bullet holes in the building, saying, "Parents and teachers do not feel safe." The increasing number of Islamophobic attacks of late and a rise of the extremist right in the Netherlands, previously known for its tolerant and liberal values, have evoked a sense of fear among its Muslim community. The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in a 2015 report covered Islamophobia in Europe. The report stated that Holland in 2015 experienced some 279 religion-based discriminatory attacks, out of which 206 were carried out against Muslims, a significant increase from 150 in 2013.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported that there were some 117 attacks on mosques in the country between 2005 and 2010, more than any other country. It said that in 2011, only 290 discriminatory comments were detected on the internet however with the rise of social media that number has become uncountable. The 28-country bloc EU has also been mostly unsuccessful in tackling the rapidly increasing Islamophobia across the continent with reports indicating attacks on Muslims and Islamic institutions have reached unprecedented numbers and to make matters worse, the far right groups have re-emerged in its politics, apparently attracting millions.
© The Daily Sabah

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Netherlands: 15-year-old boy commits suicide after racist bullying

11/1/2017- A school group in Limburg has called for a major investigation into the suicide of a 15-year-old pupil who had been bullied. The family of the boy, named as Tharukshan Selvan, say the school had done nothing to help despite being alerted to the problem. Frank Schings, head of the LVO Parkstad school group, says it is in the interests of everyone that the circumstances are properly looked into. ‘If we have made mistakes, we will admit them. We will also bring in an interpreter so we can speak to his parents, who speak no Dutch,’ he told broadcaster NOS. The boy’s sister said on Facebook her brother had been the target of online bullying after the family stopped his allowance. He had been spending money on buying fast food meals and gifts for his classmates and they refused to pay him back. ‘They would throw food at him, insult his skin colour and appearance,’ the sister said. Messages were placed online telling him ‘you are not fit to live. We don’t want you. We’d be happy without you. Jump in front of a train. Commit suicide,’ the sister said.

Police
He first tried to kill himself seven weeks ago, at which point the police, school and council officials were involved. However talks with representatives of all three failed to produce results, the family says. ‘They asked him if he needed help and he said no,’ his sister said. ‘He’s only 15 and they just let him go.’ Schools are required by law to have proper anti-bullying strategy. The children’s hotline Kindertelefoon said last September that this had not let to a reduction in complaints about bullying. According to national statistics office CBS, in 2015, 19 youngsters under the age of 20 killed themselves.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Most PVV parliamentary candidates have another political job

10/1/2017- Nearly all the 50 parliamentary hopefuls on the PVV’s election list have another political job, according to research by the Volkskrant. Most are either a local councillor in Almere or The Hague, or represent the anti-Islam party at a provincial level, in Europe or in the senate, the paper says. The party, which has no members and no formal party structure, is currently tipped to win up to 35 seats in the March election. If elected according to the list, five new PVV MPs will have to give up their current PVV job and 13 will do two jobs. MPs may serve as local or provincial councillors but not as members of the senate or as MEPs. This means that four of the nine PVV senators would have to quit and that Wilders will need to find four replacements from the 2015 electoral list. However, most of them are now on the list to become MPs, which could mean the PVV will be unable to find enough senators, the Volkskrant says.
© The Dutch News

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Austria wants to discriminate against EU workers

12/1/2017- EU citizens should be barred from taking jobs if a qualified Austrian has applied to the same position, says Austria's centre-left chancellor. Chancellor Christian Kern on Wednesday (11 January) accused east European nations of "exporting their joblessness to Austria" and wants local employers to prioritise Austrians unless no other candidate is available. "That means - only if there is no suitable unemployed person in the country can [a job] be given to new arrivals without restriction," he said. Kern was speaking in Wels, a town whose mayor hails from the right-wing populist FPO. The FPO has seen a historic resurgence in support despite narrowly losing the presidential run-off in December.

Kern's statement was made during a presentation of a 10-year economic plan, and aims to woo the anti-immigrant voters back into his social democrat party ahead of national elections. But it also directly clashes with the free movement of workers, viewed as sacrosanct throughout much of the EU. Articles in the treaty of the European Union uphold the right for any EU national to be treated on equal footing with nationals of that member states. Kern's pledge would allow employers to discriminate against people based exclusively on nationality.

Austria's asylum cap
He also backed government plans to cut Austria's asylum application cap of 35,000 per year to 17,000. The cap, first introduced in January last year, allows authorities to impose an emergency decree to turn away people at the border should the threshold be breached. The 35,000 cap was not reached last year but the move to further reduce it was announced by the head of the People's Party (OVP), a junior member of the coalition government headed by Kern. "We want to halve this cap, we want to reduce it to around 17,000," said OVP leader Reinhold Mitterlehner according to Reuters news agency.
© EUobserver

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Germany: What to wear and what not to wear to the Bundestag

The Bundestag doesn’t look very kindly upon sartorial faux-pas, including t-shirts with "political" slogans spreading the message of love and peace.

13/1/2017- Earlier this week, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, wore her "Refugees Welcome" sweatshirt on a class trip to the German parliament. She was stopped at the security gates and asked to zip up her jacket so the slogan wouldn't be seen when she entered the building - the reason being that visitors to the parliament are prohibited from publicly displaying their political opinions. "I am disturbed by the signal the Bundestag security is giving my growing daughter," the girl's mother told "Der Spiegel" magazine, which reported the incident on Thursday. The 13-year-old works with refugees in her free time, the mother said, adding it was strange this "message of humanity" was censored in a "place like the Bundestag, which stands for the freedom of opinion and for the right to asylum, enshrined in the Basic Law."

Where does one draw the line?
In a statement to Deutsche Welle, the Bundestag's press department confirmed that "There is no specific dress code in the Bundestag." However, after every parliamentary election, members approve a code of conduct for the house, which serves to uphold the "dignity of the parliament." All exchange of political opinions takes place through debates within parliamentary bodies and expressing opinions through banners, pamphlets or items of clothing is prohibited, the statement said. The Bundestag's code of conduct has indeed proved effective in cases where neo-Nazi symbols were publicly displayed. Nearly a decade ago, the parliament reaffirmed its decision to ban all right-wing symbols, when an employee was found wearing clothes manufactured under the label "Thor Steinar," considered popular among supporters of the far right.

In many other cases however, the Bundestag's preferences when it comes to the right dress code became a subject of discussion. In 2009, for example, security officials apprehended a pupil for wearing a t-shirt that said, "Make love, not war." The schoolboy was made to wear the t-shirt inside out so the slogan would not be seen when he entered the building, German media reported.

'Clothes make the Bundestag'
Members of the Bundestag themselves have also used clothes as an excuse to target their political opponents. Over two years ago, CSU politician Dorothee Bär was chastised by her Greens counterpart Sylvia Kotting-Uhl for wearing the traditional Bavarian "dirndl" to the parliament. According to Kotting-Uhl, the dress was considered "regressive by the entire world except by Bavarians." Right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany's (AfD) leaders from Saxony also recently picked on their political opponents' clothes, suggesting that people couldn't take lawmakers who didn't dress well seriously. In a press statement after a visit to the parliament in Berlin in October, the party referred to Greens' chief Claudia Roth as a middle-aged woman wearing a "strange hairstyle," with a "coat-like something" wrapped around her. The right-wingers were also shocked by members of the leftist "Die Linke" and the Greens, who walked around in "jeans and leather jackets," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" newspaper reported. The "lax manner of dress" in which most of the MPs of the Green and the leftist "Die Linke" parties delivered their duties in the "name of the German people," was disappointing, the AfD said in its statement.

What works, what doesn't
A visitor to the Bundestag, or even a lawmaker for that matter, can do little to make everyone happy with his or her choice of outfit. But here is a short list of items of clothing that may work while on a visit to the parliament, according to German public broadcaster SWR, which questioned the Bundestag on the issue. A burka or the full-body veil worn by Muslim women is allowed within the Bundestag's premises, despite concerns about security and Muslim women's integration into German society. However, women wearing the robe will have to show their faces to security officials to confirm their identity. Muslim women wearing the hijab - or headscarf - will also not have to face any problems getting through security. A nun's habit is also permissible in the Bundestag as well as the Kippa, or skullcap, worn by Jewish men. However, visitors wearing a pointed traditional Tyrolean hat will have to leave the accessory with security, as well as men and women wearing cowboy hats. These are not considered dignified enough to wear while listening or watching parliamentary proceedings.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Hundreds of neo-Nazis have gone underground

German police are hunting for hundreds of neo-Nazis. The Interior Ministry says there was a significant jump in outstanding arrest warrants in 2016. Experts believe that right-wing terrorist networks pose a threat.

9/1/2017- Chancellor Angela Merkel said just a few days ago in her New Year address that the most difficult test Germany faces is Islamist terrorism. But terrorism in Germany is not exclusively Islamist. It can also come from the political left or - as the National Socialist Underground (NSU) has recently demonstrated - from the right. The interior ministry said in a December response to a parliamentary interpellation from representatives of the Left Party that just under 600 arrest warrants for neo-Nazis were still outstanding. Some 403 arrest warrants were issued in the first 10 months of 2016 alone. In total, warrants were issued against 454 individuals who, in the official jargon, "have been deemed on account of relevant police information to belong to the category 'crime motivated by the political right.'" Not all of these right-wing extremists are being sought for politically motivated crimes, but in 92 cases the arrest warrant does indeed relate to a politically motivated offense.

Going underground encourages radicalization
According to Matthias Quent, a Jena-based researcher into right-wing extremism, the number of neo-Nazis who have gone underground increases the risk of creating new right-wing extremist terrorist structures. In an interview with DW, Quent emphasized that going underground could lead to further radicalization and to political aims being pursued more determinedly, with violence. This corresponds with the interior ministry's latest annual report on the defense of the constitution, which talks about an "exorbitant increase in right-wing extremist violence." The authors go on to say that "anti-asylum agitation creates a sounding board for right-wing extremist ideology fragments. Right-wing extremism gains connectivity," with the result that violence and crimes motivated by right-wing extremism and directed against asylum-seekers' accommodation increased more than five-fold in 2015 compared to the previous year. The report also found that after years in decline, the right-wing extremist scene is now attracting members again. The number of right-wing extremist-oriented people is estimated at just under 23,000.

Uninhibited discourse
Just as in France, where mosques were targeted in the aftermath of the Islamist terrorist attacks, the deadly attack on Berlin's Breitscheidplatz, where a truck was driven into a Christmas market, may inflame sentiments in right-wing circles. Matthias Quent says he has already observed on social networks that the threshold for verbal violence has fallen. "The discourse is incredibly uninhibited," he told DW. "If the perception is that the state is no longer capable of protecting its borders, or its people, from terrorism, there is an increase in the perceived legitimacy of forming one's own organizations, of resorting to violence oneself, of arming oneself." One can, for example, arm oneself online. A Russian-registered German-language website with the name "Migrantenschreck" ("Scourge of Migrants”) offers items such as crossbows or weapons that shoot hard rubber bullets. A gun costing 749 euros ($791) is described as follows: "An incredible 130-joule muzzle velocity speaks for itself, guaranteeing the successful use of this product."

The operator of this illegal internet shop, Mario Rönsch, belongs to the circle of neo-Nazis who have gone underground. Several German public prosecutors have already had dealings with him: He was wanted, for example, on suspicion of incitement and exhorting people to commit crimes. Rönsch is now believed to be living in Hungary, where he is selling weapons. The weapons Rönsch offers on his site are legal in Hungary, but it is forbidden to export them to Germany. It can hardly be assumed that Rönsch's intentions are peaceful: The website has videos demonstrating how to use the weapons in which photos of leading German politicians are shot to pieces.

Europe-wide increase
Europol's anti-terror unit observes that right-wing extremist groups all over Europe have been trying to instrumentalize the refugee crisis for their own ends. The Europol officials have also registered a significant increase in right-wing extremist websites across the European Union. As with other forms of extremism and radicalization, social networks also play a key role in right-wing extremism. "The support that potential violent criminals get for their subsequent acts of violence very often comes from social media," Ulrich Wagner, a social psychologist from Marburg, told DW. This support, he said, comes either from interactive platforms or, quite simply, from the repeated viewing of particular acts of violence. "Violent perpetrators also learn by example how to do these things," says Wagner. "And the images are there on the internet for everyone to access."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: 'Traitor of the people' is Germany's worst word of 2016

Each year, German linguists elect one word as the 'Unwort' (non-word) of the year. For 2016, the winner was a term meaning 'traitor' which has strong Nazi connotations.

10/1/2017- A jury of language experts selected their annual 'Unwort' of the year, choosing Volksverräter on Tuesday as the worst word of 2016. The jury, made up of four linguists and one journalist, said in a statement that the noun had been selected "because it is a typical legacy of dictatorships". Volksverräter literally means "traitor of the people" and is used to denote someone guilty of treason - but it also has strong connotations of the Nazi era. Along with other words and slogans linked to Adolf Hitler's regime, the word has seen a resurgence among far-right groups. Jury spokesperson Nina Janich said that members of Germany's far-right movements - including anti-Islam group Pegida and the political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) - use the term to describe politicians in an "undifferentiated and defamatory way". This usage "strangles serious discussion and, in doing so, the discussions necessary for a democratic society", she added.

Hecklers have hurled the word at Chancellor Angela Merkel during public appearances, for example in August during a visit to a refugee centre hit by far-right violence. Last year's winner was Gutmensch or "do-gooder", an expression the jury claimed "blocks democratic exchange and substantial debate" by linking tolerance with naivety or even moral imperialism. Previous winners have included Lügenpresse, another term used by Pegida to denote the "lying media', and Döner-Morde (Döner Murders), a phrase used by police and German media to describe the murders of eight ethnic Turkish and one Greek victims, which turned out to be the work of terrorist neo-Nazis. Before that, some of Germany's worst words were notleidende Banken (needy banks) and Gotteskrieger (warrior for god), often used to refer to Islamic militants.

Each year since 1991, the jury has selected the most offensive, new or newly popularized phrase in order to "promote awareness and sensitivity of language". For 2016, 1,064 votes for 594 different words were submitted. The word of the year and the non-word of the year were originally both announced by the German Language Society (GFDS), but the Unwort jury split to become independent in 1994. This year's choice for 'word of the year' was postfaktisch (post-factual).
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Merkel's sudden urge to deport failed asylum seekers shows impact Berlin attack

9/1/2017- The discussion surrounding the deportation of failed asylum seekers in Germany has been a central one since the Berlin truck attack that killed 12 people last month. The attacker, Anis Amri, was a failed Tunisian asylum seeker whose deportation stalled because Tunisia refused to take him back. Merkel left no room for ambiguity on Monday, however. In a speech in Cologne, the German chancellor said: "Anyone who does not have a right of residence must be returned to their home country." Merkel plans to speed up the deportation of those without the right to stay. She added that anyone with a residence permit has to be integrated properly. She admitted that both of these policies have "not been so seriously pursued" recently and it is the responsibility of the government and the public to take action. Merkel also talked about finding "common solutions" to classify Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia as secure states of origin, to enable German authorities to send back migrants coming from these countries more easily. The chancellor also emphasised that a deal with these countries had to be negotiated "respectfully."

Since the Christmas terror attack, German politicians have been urging the government to get tougher on deporting failed asylum seekers and on Sunday, threatened to cut aid to countries refusing to take them back. "Those who do not cooperate sufficiently cannot hope to benefit from our development aid," Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel in an interview published this weekend. His proposition received "full support" from the Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. Merkel's remarks are the latest sign that the champion of the "welcome-politic" is hardening her stance on immigration ahead of September's federal elections in Germany. A more aggressive approach to deportation is something far-right parties in Germany have been demanding for years but it has now been pushed onto the national agenda of every political party.

The Berlin attack was already the second one perpetrated last year in Germany by a failed asylum seeker. A 27-year-old Syrian man denied asylum in Germany died in July when he set off a bomb outside a crowded music festival in Ansbach. Merkel started her campaign to be re-elected chancellor for a fourth time in December and has made clear at her party's conference that she had toughened her stance on immigration and refugee integration. She said she supported the full Islamic veil's ban and that it was not appropriate in Germany. Gabriel had already last week announced a much tougher stance to deal with Islamism in Germany. "Salafist mosques must be banned, the communities dissolved and the preachers should be expelled, as soon as possible," the vice chancellor said, and added that those who call for violence do not enjoy the protection of religious freedom.
© The Business Insider

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German court rejects appeal by Cologne mayor assailant

9/1/2017- A German federal court has rejected an appeal by a far-right extremist sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of a politician who is now Cologne's mayor. The defendant, identified only as Frank S. in line with German privacy rules, was convicted by a Düsseldorf court in July. Henriette Reker, who was in charge of housing refugees in Cologne at the time, was stabbed in the neck Oct. 17, 2015 as she campaigned. Reker was elected mayor the following day while in an induced coma and took office about a month later. Judges in Düsseldorf found that the assailant, a German in his mid-40s, wanted to "send a signal against the government's refugee policy." The Federal Court of Justice said Monday that it has rejected his appeal.
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Police block counter demonstrators as far-right nationalists march in Cologne

Dozens of right-wing extremists have marched through the western German city of Cologne. Police outnumbered the participants tenfold and had to block hundreds of counter-protesters who attempted to disrupt the march.

8/1/2017- Dozens of supporters of the far-right nationalist party Pro NRW marched through Cologne on Saturday, accompanied by some 1,000 police and several hundred counter-protesters. Authorities erected barriers, parked police vans on side streets and deployed horse-mounted officers to keep the counter-demonstrators separated from the right-wing protesters. German news agency DPA reported that around 100 far-right extremists took part in the protest while the local "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" newspaper reported around 50 to 60 people participated in the march. The protest against the sexual assaults which took place in Cologne last New Year's Eve was expected to draw some 400 right-wing extremists. A police spokesperson told news agency EPD that turnout was low probably due to the iced streets and cold weather. Despite a heavy police presence, around 200 counter-protesters were able to block the far-right protester's march, forcing them to change their route, "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" reported. Some of the counter-demonstrators now face criminal proceedings for attempting to disrupt the march and one was arrested. Both sides shouted chants and took turns giving each other the middle finger. At one point, counter-demonstrators chanted, "Nazis out" to which the far-right marchers replied "Nafris out," reported "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger."

Tensions in Cologne
Police in Cologne came under fire again after this year's New Year's Eve celebrations over allegations of racial profiling and using the term "Nafri" to describe groups of North African men who officers targeted for checks during the festivities. The Pro NRW party, known for its anti-immigrant stance, has since begun selling T-shirts with the word "Nafri" on them to spread intolerance for North Africans in Germany. During the 2015/2016 New Year's Eve celebrations, hundreds of women were sexually harassed, assaulted and robbed by men who witnesses described as being of Middle Eastern or North African descent. The assaults sparked public outrage, with many criticizing Cologne police for being unprepared and slow to respond. The assaults also stoked anti-migrant sentiment, particularly within far-right parties. Right-wing extremists are set to march in the city again next weekend, with police expecting further counter-protests.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Finnish lawmaker fined for 'all terrorists are Muslims' comment

8/1/2017- Lawmaker Teuvo Hakkarainen from the nationalist Finns party was fined on Wednesday for a Facebook post calling for a Muslim-free Finland which a district court said amounted to agitation against an ethnic group. Hakkarainen, whose party is part of the country's coalition government, made the call in a comment on the truck attack in France last July that killed 86 people. Prosecutors said the Tunisian-born driver had pro-terrorist views. "All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims," the parliamentarian wrote in the comment. Central Finland's district court in Jyvaskyla imposed a 1,160 euro ($1,210) fine for Hakkarainen, who accepted the verdict. Local media quoted his assistant telling the court that the lawmaker was not aware of the legislation in question.

The Finns party said it would next month discuss possible political sanctions for him. The party, previously known as True Finns, is known for its eurosceptic and nationalist views, but it has toned down its demands after joining Finland's three-party government in 2015. Finland has tightened its immigration policies, along with other Nordic countries, after about 32,000 migrants and refugees arrived in the country in 2015. Thousands of people rallied against ethnic hatred in Helsinki that year after another Finns parliamentarian called in a Facebook post for a fight against multiculturalism.
© Reuters

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Norway: Soldiers of Odin loses leaders

Just two weeks after taking over as the new leader of the quasi-vigilante group Soldiers of Odin, Jan Tellef Aanonsen says he has quit and hopes the entire organization “disappears.” Its former leader, meanwhile, was back in court this week, charged with assault.

9/1/2017- The group grabbed headlines last winter when members wearing hooded black jackets took it upon themselves to start “patrolling” various Norwegian cities. They expressed concern about the recent influx of refugees into Norway, and claimed they would “make the streets safer.” Their patrols were unwanted by the police, top politicians and local residents in cities including Drammen and Tønsberg, who found them threatening. Some referred to them as a neo-Nazi organization, while members objected to the description. Many, however, had criminal records themselves including Steffen Andre Larsen of Nøtterøy, who stepped down as leader in December and is now, reports newspaper Tønsberg Blad, back in court. Larsen was succeeded by Aanonsen of Arendal, but he only lasted a few weeks before declaring that he was quitting, too. “The reason is the earlier leader’s criminal record and a totally ridiculous organization that’s not serious,” Aanonsen told newspaper Aftenposten. “They love to run around in their black hooded jackets but now I hope Soldiers of Odin disappears. I don’t want to have anything to do with them anymore.” Aanonsen said he wanted to make the organization more professional but was met with a lack of willingness. He said he had no idea who may be leader now.
© Views and News from Norway

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Norway: Brevik back in court to claim prison breaches his human rights

Far-right terrorist and mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik will be back in court this week, claiming that his isolation in prison breaches his human rights.

8/1/2017- Breivik killed 77 people in 2011, in a meticulously planned bombing and shooting rampage he claimed was part of an anti-Muslim revolution. After setting off a car bomb in the capital, killing eight, he drove to the island of Utoya and gunned down 69 people at a summer camp, mostly teenage members of the Labour party youth wing. He was locked up for 21 years after admitting the attacks, a sentence that is likely to be extended for life. Guards keep him isolated from other prisoners, in a complex of three cells where he is able to exercise, play video games and watch TV. But Breivik, 37, sued the government last year, claiming he was treated ‘inhumanely’ because of his solitary confinement, strip searches and the fact he was often handcuffed in the early stages of his sentence. He also complained he had to eat with plastic cutlery and wasn’t allowed to communicate with sympathisers.

In a surprise ruling, the Oslo District Court agreed that it wasn’t fair for him to be kept in solitary confinement, saying: ‘The prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment represents a fundamental value in a democratic society. ‘This applies no matter what – also in the treatment of terrorists and killers.’ They ruled that his isolation breached the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered the government to pay Breivik’s legal costs of £31,786. However, the court dismissed Breivik’s claim that his ban on communicating with right-wing sympathisers breached his right to private and family life. Now the Norwegian government is appealing against the ruling that his isolation breaches his rights, saying that he is treated humanely and must be kept separate from other inmates for safety reasons.

Breivik’s lawyer, Oystein Storrvik, said his client was satisfied with last year’s verdict. He added that he expects Breivik to be allowed to meet other people in prison. Mette Yvonne Larsen, a lawyer who represented Breivik’s victims and their families, says her official line is ‘not to comment because we don’t want to give him (Breivik) any visibility.’ Many feel his crimes should be confined to the history books, and not commented on to prevent giving him the notoriety he craved. The appeals case opens on Tuesday in southern Norway, where Breivik is incarcerated. Six days have been reserved for the hearings.

Breivik's crimes
Prime minister Erna Solberg called his terror attack on July 22, 2011, ‘one of the darkest days in Norwegian history’.
He set off a car bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people and wounding dozens.
Then he drove 25 miles to Utoya, where he opened fire on the annual summer camp of the Labour party’s youth wing.
Sixty-nine people were killed there, most of them teenagers, before Breivik surrendered to police.
He was convicted of mass murder and terrorism in 2012.
At the time of the attacks, Breivik claimed to be the commander of a secret Christian military order plotting an anti-Muslim revolution in Europe but investigators found no trace of the group.
He now describes himself as a traditional neo-Nazi who prays to the Viking god Odin, saying his earlier crusader image was just for show.
He made a Nazi salute to journalists at the start of his human rights case last year.
© Metro UK

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Hungarian camerawoman filmed tripping up fleeing refugees is convicted

Camerawoman Petra László caused outrage when she kicked child running from disturbance close to Serbian border in 2015

12/1/2017- A Hungarian television camerawoman who was filmed tripping and kicking migrants fleeing police has been found guilty of breaching the peace. A judge in Szeged, southern Hungary, said the actions of Petra László triggered “indignation and outrage”, and rejected her defence lawyer’s argument that she was trying to protect herself. The judge found her guilty and sentenced her to three years’ probation. If she does not reoffend during that period the conviction will be dropped. In television footage which sparked global outrage, László can be seen tripping up a man sprinting with a child in his arms, and kicking another running child near the town of Röszke, close to the border with Serbia. It later emerged that the camerawoman, who was fired over her actions, had been working for N1TV, an internet-based television station close to Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party.

The incident on 8 September 2015 occurred as hundreds of migrants broke through a police line at a collection point close to the Serbian border. “I turned and saw several hundred people charging toward me; it was quite incredibly frightening,” she said. László said she had received death threats after the incident and took part in the hearing in Szeged via a video link from a courtroom in Budapest. Occasionally breaking into tears, she told the court that she had been subjected to a “hate campaign” since the incident. She “terribly regretted” what happened at Röszke, and said that her life had been “derailed” by what happened. Both the prosecutor, who sought the maximum penalty of a stiff fine, and László’s defence lawyer who asked for acquittal, said they would appeal the verdict. László told a Russian newspaper in 2015 that she planned to move with her family to Russia after the case ended as she no longer felt safe in Hungary.

In 2015, thousands of migrants crossed into Hungary each day as the country, a southern gateway into the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, became a temporary hotspot of the migration crisis. A week after the incident, Hungarian soldiers completed the closure of the 175km (110 mile) border with a fence reinforced with razor wire. Over 400,000 migrants passed through Hungary in 2015 bound for western Europe, but the number plummeted after the border was sealed off. The Syrian man tripped up by László was later given a job by a Spanish football coaching school, while his son ran with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo on to the pitch in Madrid before a match.
© AFP

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Hungary's Jobbik ditches far-right past to challenge Orban in 2018

11/1/2017- Hungary's main opposition Jobbik party is moving from its roots as a far-right, anti-Semitic radical group to target the mainstream, and plans to challenge ruling Fidesz for power in 2018 elections, its leader Gabor Vona told Reuters. Jobbik has openly vilified Jews, gays and foreigners, and its paramilitaries used to march through areas where Roma people live. It also favoured forging ties with Russia, Iran and Turkey rather than the European Union, of which Hungary is a member. But last month Vona sent Hannukah greetings to local Jews. His party had a lot to atone for, he said in an interview this week, insisting the shift would yield substantial political results, elevating the party to government sooner or later.

Mimicking a move by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz - which ditched its liberal roots and rose to power as conservatives in 1998 - Vona plans to take voters from the left, where parties are in disarray, and right. "We will need several bridges ... to voters on the left, not to parties on the left," he said. "Jobbik offers a message, a programme both to former leftist and former rightist voters." He said the party's new "modern conservatism" borrowed both from progressive and right-wing agendas, such as environmental protection and wage equality across the EU, and countries growing their economies without relying on immigrant workers. Vona also drew a stark contrast between his own party and Fidesz, which has put pressure on independent media and plans to "sweep out" civil society groups. "Independent institutions, checks and balances ... it may have been hard to imagine but a Jobbik government would create a far more democratic political system in Hungary than Fidesz has built in the last seven years."

In the latest opinion polls Jobbik scored about 10-13 percent, while Fidesz' support was about 31-36 percent. A large chunk, about 40 percent of the population, is undecided. Jobbik claims its core voter base is about 20 percent of eligible voters, and Vona said the party's own surveys show it as the least unpopular of all major groupings, and voters' most popular second choice. "We have very serious reserves," he said. "I am certain Jobbik will govern Hungary at some point - it is only a matter of time. Obviously we are working to make it happen in 2018." He said the double credibility gap Jobbik had - its hardline supporters felt cheated and its potential new voters need to be convinced - was temporary and natural in a transition phase. "We are growing out of our teenage years," he said. "So many times teenagers realise, wow, I was so wrong... (Jobbik) may be a teenager who collided with brick walls a few times before realising life is not black and white."

He cited the row over his Hanukkah greetings. "We were right to do what we did during the holidays," he said. "If you want to govern you need to partner with all religious and other groups. I will do the same thing (send greetings) in the next holiday season, too." In future, Jobbik would treat Israel like any other nation, he said. "If we disagree, we want to be able to criticise Israel like we criticise Sweden or Germany, but naturally we respect its right to exist, form its own identity, opinions and articulate its interests," he said.
© Reuters UK.

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Ireland: Alt-right reporter: I’m paid to troll

8/1/2017- An American writer whose column on the alt-right movement for The Irish Times caused a storm last week has boasted about earning a living from “trolling” people. The article by Nicholas Pell included a glossary of terms used by the far right that included derogatory slang for black people and feminists. The decision to publish the article was criticised by Una Mullally, an Irish Times columnist, who claimed it was “humouring fascism”. Some people on social media said they were cancelling their Irish Times subscriptions in protest. In an article published on cracked.com last year, Pell claimed he was making a generous living from provoking people online, known as trolling. In the piece, entitled “Six things you learn from getting paid to troll people online”, Pell said he would “punch up my style [of writing] and put it in the way most likely to irritate people who deserve to be irritated”.

He said if his writing irritated a person, “that probably means you’re an uptight square, just begging to be f***** with”. All the negative feedback helped get him paid. “Editors know they can rely on me to produce a stream of punters giving them the sweet page views and click-throughs they need to pitch to potential advertisers,” he wrote. “So basically every time you read my article, comment on it, and/or share it with your friends while telling them what a dick I am, you’re helping me buy another pair of $400 jeans. Thanks for that!” Yesterday Pell said he would not classify his Irish Times piece as trolling. “The article is a legitimate attempt to inform,” he insisted. “There is a tongue-in-cheek quality about it but I wouldn’t call it trolling.” Pell said he had not expected The Irish Times to publish it, but said the newspaper had told him it would appear online and in print. He does not know why it appeared only online.

He denied the piece was sympathetic to the far right. “I would say it was more balanced than people who just want to shriek about the alt-right would like,” said Pell. “The outcry about the article boiled down to the left being accustomed to controlling discourse and saying what words mean and who’s this or that. “The biggest monkey wrench you can throw is to say, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ You can see their power is waning — Brexit and the Trump election are examples. That’s what made people angry. I wouldn’t say it was sympathetic, it was fair.” Pell said everything written about the far right did not have to contain criticism of it. He does accept elements of the movement are “white nationalists or outright National Socialists [Nazis]”.

Amnesty International Ireland also criticised The Irish Times’s decision to publish the piece, with executive director Colm O’Gorman describing it as “dangerous”. Others have criticised the backlash as being an attack on freedom of speech. Ed Brophy, former chief of staff for Joan Burton, said the reaction “shows just how badly liberals have lost their nerve; limits on free speech are not the answer”.
© The Times

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France: Family name and party logo have gone but can Marine Le Pen detoxify her brand?

The Front National is cultivating a voter-friendly image. But some say its hard right core is intact.

7/1/2017- At Marine Le Pen’s modest campaign headquarters in one of the most upmarket streets of Paris – Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré – something is missing, and it’s not just the symbolic Joan of Arc statue or giant papier-mache cockerel that grace the Front National’s permanent offices a few miles away. Here, not far from the Élysée Palace where Le Pen hopes to reside in four months’ time, posters hanging in the interview room feature the campaign slogan Au nom du peuple (in the name of the people), and the words MARINE Présidente, accompanied by a blue, thorn-free rose. There is no mention of the FN nor, indeed, any sign of the Le Pen name. Gone, too, is the FN’s red-white-and-blue flame logo. Today, Marine is officially launching her presidential campaign. She arrives wearing a jacket that perfectly matches the posters and the chair set out for her next to the obligatory Tricolour, which blends into the grey-blue walls. It is all perfectly co-ordinated and reassuring. Le Pen smiles and wishes everyone a happy new year.

This is far-right lite, the “soft” image of a famously tough woman and champion of a “forgotten France” who – according to “private” photographs released last year – is also kind to kittens. It is six years since Marine took over the FN and set about making it, and herself, electable. In that time, she has transformed its status from toxic fringe movement to a party that is part of the political mainstream. Today, four months before a presidential election, victory for Le Pen remains unlikely, but no longer impossible. Le Pen père, however, has no place in this metamorphosed and rebranded party. Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter no longer speak after she threw him out for failing to sign up to the detoxification programme. While he continues to bang on about the Holocaust being a small “detail” of history, Marine has moved on; her targets are immigration, the EU and Islamic fundamentalism.

Jérôme Fourquet, a director of opinion pollster Ifop, says this rebranding goes beyond the usual attempt by a French presidential candidate to personalise their campaign. “Everyone in France knows the FN logo and the Le Pen name and these still make a lot of people afraid,” he said. “By erasing the logo and the name, and presenting the candidate by her first name, they are trying to create a closeness and suggest a product that is less hard, less worrying, less frightening.” Last September, the FN announced that its annual conference, traditionally a “summer university”, would be called a “summer event”, with posters depicting a seaside sunset. “It was in very soft and pastel colours, more like an advertisement for a holiday on the Côte d’Azur than for a political event,” said Fourquet. 

Marine Le Pen, 48, set about “de-demonising” the FN in 2011 after taking control of the party her father founded in the 1970s. Le Pen senior, 88, had caused a political earthquake in 2002 by winning through to the second round of the presidential election but, until relatively recently, the Le Pens have been viewed as unelectable to the ultimate office. Uli Wiesendanger, founder of the international, Paris-based TBWA advertising agency, said Le Pen had quickly realised she had to “water down” the racist, Nazi, homophobic image of the party exemplified by her father if she wanted serious power. “What she is doing is really not that creative, and I don’t imagine a marketing specialist has masterminded it,” Wiesendanger said. “I expect she thought it up herself, after she realised that the name was not appealing to people. But if the party she represents is ashamed of its name, that’s a very interesting observation. “She is far from stupid and she speaks very well, better than any other politician in the country, but I wouldn’t represent her.”

It is not clear who, if anyone, is representing Le Pen. Her 2012 presidential campaign was handled by a little-known agency, Riwal, run by long-time friend Frédéric Chatillon, a former member of the shadowy far-right student organisation Group Union Défense (GUD). In 2015, a judge ordered Chatillon, whose name appeared in the Panama Papers (the leak that uncovered a global operation of secretive offshore companies), and Riwal not to work “in a direct or indirect manner” with the FN as part of an investigation into campaign funding. Last week, outside Le Pen’s campaign HQ, L’Escale (the stopover), an election poster had been vandalised. Underneath the scratches, Le Pen could be seen against a bucolic backdrop gazing dreamily into the far-right future, above the slogan: La France Apaisée (a soothed France). Again, no mention of the FN.

Today, French pollsters are wary of predicting the outcome of the presidential election, but a second-round run-off between the centre-right candidate François Fillon and either Le Pen, or the independent former Socialist minister Emmanuel Macron, is seen as the most likely scenario. The Socialist and Ecology parties will select their candidate at the end of the month from a large cast of left-wing candidates, including former prime minister Manuel Valls. Inside L’Escale, addressing members of the Anglo-American Press Association, Le Pen was confident as she railed against multiple targets: the “blackmail, threats, intimidation … and diktats” of EU technocrats; the euro that is “a knife stuck in a country’s ribs”; the enforced “submission” of France to the will of Brussels.

Out of the blue, Le Pen attacked German chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union’s domination of the continent’s politics, using the term à la schlague, a phrase that means “by beating” and is most often associated with Nazi concentration camp brutality. This is one reason why many concur with Fourquet and view Marine’s makeover with scepticism. “Personally, I’m not convinced that it works,” Fourquet said. “It’s like Coca-Cola deciding its trademark will no longer be red, but green. It’s a complicated thing, changing the way the public see these things – and I don’t think people will be fooled. The Le Pen name is very well known. She may have changed the packaging to something nicer, but the policies inside remain as hard as they’ve always been.”

The Contenders
Emmanuel Macron The former Socialist economy minister, 39, is now standing as an independent.
François Fillon The former centre-right prime minister, 62, who is standing for Les Républicains.                                                                                                           Outsiders Former ministers Vincent Peillon, 56, Arnaud Montebourg, 54, and Benoît Hamon, 49; and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 65, from the far left.
© The Guardian.

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UK: Jewish woman and her son bombarded with gas canister

A Jewish woman and her 13 year-old son were bombarded with gas canister by a racist thug who chanted ‘Heil Hitler’.

12/1/2017- Four members of the Orthodox Jewish community, Cheya Stern, her 13 year old son, her brother Simon Lemberger and passerby, Abraham Law, were pelted with canisters of nitrous oxide from a white van. As he carried out the attack outside Poundland in Tottenham Hale on January 6 Patrick Delaney, 19, shouted “Hitler is on the way to you, Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler”. Shulem Stern, from Jewish community group Shomrim, said: “They were just going about their daily life but they were scared about what would happen next. “Jewish people have to face this anti-semitism on a daily basis and visibly Jewish people are often targeted. “It’s unusual that an attack will be this violent but often it will be comments and derogatory remarks. “It’s is good that someone had been convicted and some action has been taken. “It sends a message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Barry Bard, senior co-ordinator at Stamford Hill Shomrim, said “This was a disgusting unprovoked attack at innocent Jewish shoppers going about their daily lives. “A sad reminder of the daily anti-Semitic attacks against members of the Charedi Jewish Community, who are frequently targeted due to being quite visibly Jewish. “It is great that justice has been served, after one man pleaded guilty for his despicable actions, bringing closure for the victims. “Convictions for anti-Semitic hate crimes are sadly very rare in the UK, despite the huge amount of incidents. ” Shomrim volunteers will continue to work hard with victims and authorities to help minimise the impact of such crimes and assist with bringing offenders to justice.” Patrick Delaney will be sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court on February 2 after admitting racially aggravated harassment causing alarm or distress of Cheya Stern.
© The London Economic

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UK: Racist thugs mindlessly set fire to a Essex mosque

12/1/2017- Shocking footage has been released showing the moment two racist thugs mindlessly set fire to a mosque. The louts initially tried to break into Al Falah Braintree Islamic Centre in Essex by throwing bricks and kicking the door. But when that failed the pair, believed to be intoxicated at the time, set fire to the plastic corrugated roof on the building's lean to. Throughout the attack, which was captured on the Islamic centre's CCTV, one of the yobs repeatedly revealed his face when he looked up at the camera. After starting the fire they fled the scene at around 2.30am on Sunday as melted plastic dripped down and the fire spread. The centre's secretary Sikander Sleemy said: 'I think they had a drink or were drunk, just by the way they were walking and the fact that the pubs closed just before. 'They passed by and stumbled across to the mosque, or realised it was a mosque, and have had a bit of fun and tried to set fire to the mosque.

'I think the first boy tried to break in but couldn't and they grabbed some rubbish and set it alight and threw it on the porch area on the roof and, because of the weight of the bag, it just burned and came straight through. It was burning when one of our taxi drivers was passing. He put the fire out with a bottle of water. 'We are just fortunate they were two drunk guys who didn't know what they were doing and were being stupid. 'Had the bin bag not been as heavy it could have spread across the roof and we could have been looking at something worse.' Essex Police is treating the incident as a hate crime. The attack comes more than three years after construction worker Geoffrey Ryan, 44, approached the centre armed with two knives and launched a smoke grenade inside, hours after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London. He was jailed for nine months after admitting two charges of having a bladed object in a public place and one charge of affray.

Braintree Chief Inspector Craig Carrington, from Essex police, described the latest incident as 'rare'. He said: 'This is a concerning but rare incident and the impact it has had on the community cannot be underestimated. 'We are investigating the offence and are working with our partners to reassure the community at this time.' ames Cleverly, MP for Braintree, added: 'This mindless attack on the local mosque is completely unacceptable. The actions of a couple of thugs in no way reflects the welcoming nature of Braintree.' The fire brigade were called to the scene but by the time they arrived the fire had gone out. They made the scene safe before leaving.
Anyone with information about the incident should call Essex police on 101
© The Daily Mail.

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Poles living in UK ‘scared to report hate crimes’

Fears over right to remain deter EU nationals from contacting police

7/1/2017- Poles living in Britain are so anxious about their right to remain after Brexit that they are failing to report hate crimes, according to the head of the Polish Social and Cultural Association. Joanna Młudzińska, who will give evidence on Tuesday to a home affairs select committee inquiry on the issue, said EU nationals felt so disenfranchised at being used as “pawns” in Brexit negotiations that they were opting to keep a low profile, rather than contact the authorities. The situation has become so acute that the London-based East European Resource Centre (EERC) is launching a pilot scheme to encourage EU nationals to report hate crimes. Młudzińska, who was born in London to Polish parents, said the government’s failure to clarify the standing of the UK’s 2.9 million EU citizens was “immoral” and was putting Polish and other EU migrants living in Britain in an impossible position.

“Very few people are reporting hate crimes at the moment. People are very scared, because often this occurs in the workplace and they are scared they might lose their job. Or it’s from a neighbour and they don’t want to cause more problems.” Młudzińska added: “They can’t turn around and say: ‘No, I don’t have to go home because your government has said I am allowed to stay.’ That puts you in a weaker position, doesn’t it? It makes people vulnerable. It makes them scared to stand up for themselves, to properly report things.” Last year the number of Polish-born UK residents was estimated at 831,000, making Poles the largest overseas-born group in the country and Polish the second most spoken language in England.

Various agencies have documented that incidents of hate crime soared in the aftermath of June’s EU referendum vote. On Friday, a 15-year-old boy appeared in Chelmsford youth court charged with the manslaughter of a Polish man who was attacked in Essex weeks after the UK voted to leave the EU. The death of Arkadiusz Jóźwik, 40, in Harlow was initially reported as a possible hate crime, becoming one of the most high-profile incidents of violence linked to the result of the EU referendum, although it is understood that prosecutors are not treating it as such. A number of sources recorded an increase in hate crime in the wake of the Brexit vote. Racist or religious abuse incidents recorded by police in England and Wales jumped 41% with 5,468 such crimes being logged in the month after the UK voted to quit the EU, according to the Home Office.

The uncertainty facing EU nationals living in Britain has been highlighted by a series of cases, including that of Dom Wolf, born in London to German parents, who told the Guardian  on Thursday that he could not get a British passport unless he took a UK citizenship test because he could not prove his mother had been in England legally when she gave birth to him. The 32-year-old said he felt betrayed by the country in which he was born. His parents arrived in 1974, when his mother worked for the University of London as a lecturer and his father was self-employed. Other examples include Monique Hawkins, a Dutch woman who has lived in the UK for 24 years and has two children with her British husband, but has been told by the Home Office that she should make arrangements to leave the country after applying for citizenship.

Professor Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at the University of Kent, said that, despite the apparent rise in hate crimes following the referendum, there were inherent difficulties in quantifying the issue. “The police measures for recording hate crime and how it is categorised have only recently become more sophisticated, so we’re not really able to say whether things are actually getting worse or better,” he said. “Historically, it’s been an area where we haven’t really invested much.” Goodwin, who will also appear before the select committee hearing, said that monitoring the far right was problematic because easily identifiable organisations, such as the EDL and BNP, had fractured into small, disparate factions. “This has made it harder for researchers, as well as the security services, to keep on top. There are 20 tiny groups and it’s quite difficult to know what they are doing and how,” he said.
© The Guardian.

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UK: Man held by anti-terror police after rally by neo-Nazi National Action group

A 21-year-old man has been arrested by counter-terror police after a far-right rally by a banned neo-Nazi group.

11/1/2017- The National Action group, which was outlawed as a terrorist organisation in December, wants to fight the "disease" of "international Jewry" and admires Adolf Hitler. It is understood to have grown out of splinter groups of other far-right organisations and its membership numbers are not known publicly. The man was arrested for two public order offences after allegedly using threatening, abusive and insulting words likely to stir up racial hatred. One charge relates to remarks made on social media and the other to words spoken at an event in Blackpool in March last year, organised by the North West Infidels, another right-wing group. At the event, supporters cheered as Jews were described as "parasites" and Hitler was praised amid claims Britain "took the wrong side" in the Second World War.

A police spokeswoman said: "Officers from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit and Lancashire Constabulary have today, Wednesday 11 January 2017, arrested a 21-year-old man from Blackpool on suspicion of public order offences. "The man was arrested on suspicion of two offences contrary to Section 18 of the Public Order Act 1986 - using threatening/abusive/insulting words or behaviour or displaying written material with intent/likely to stir up racial hatred. "The arrest relates to comments made at an event in Blackpool in March 2016 and to comments made on social media. "The man will be interviewed at a police station in Lancashire during the course of the day." Support or membership of National Action was outlawed by Home Secretary Amber Rudd under the Terrorism Act last month, making it the first far-right movement to be prohibited as a terror group.
Hate crimes can be reported to police on 101, or by the True Vision website.
© North-West Evening Mail

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UK: Far-right protest outside a mosque branded "pathetic" after just 15 people turned up

7/1/2017- A far-right protest outside a mosque in Maidstone has been branded "pathetic" after just 15 people turned up. Opposition group Kent Anti-racism Network made the criticism after arriving at the Mosque in Mote Road with its own counter protest. The South East Alliance claimed it would protest from 11am until 3pm – but it wasn't until 1pm that a small group arrived waving banners and flags. The group said it was protesting against the redevelopment of the mosque, which has been approved by Maidstone Borough Council. In a Facebook post, Kent Anti-racism Network said: "There was a pathetic turnout from the fascists in Maidstone today. "A small band of fewer than twenty turned out in the drizzle to mumble anti-Islam sentiments before sloping off looking slightly embarrassed after an hour or so."

For their counter protest, members of the mosque bought pizza and offered out tea and biscuits to the Kent Anti-racism Network, according to the group. The Facebook post added: "We met loads of great people and plan to do some more work with the mosque in the future." Kent Police were at the scene to ensure the protest remained peaceful. A spokesman said: "Police officers worked with both groups regarding their plans and liaised with representatives from the mosque. "Kent Police respects anyone's right to protest peacefully, and our intention will always be to balance that right with the rights of other people and groups in the community to go about their business."
© Kent Live

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Headlines 6 January, 2017

EU: MEPs to Juncker: Reconsider Oettinger's promotion

6/1/2017- Nine MEPs have urged European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to reconsider his promotion of Guenther Oettinger to a sensitive EU portfolio. The appeal came in a letter on Thursday (5 January), a few days before a European Parliament hearing on Oettinger's new post. The German EU commissioner is to take over the budget and human resources file, which was vacated by Kristalina Georgieva, who left to work for the World Bank. The post would make him responsible for EU officials’ proper conduct and for transparency and could see him crowned a commission vice-president. But the MEPs said his "recent actions" were “not appropriate behaviour for a commissioner and breach the Code of Conduct for commissioners". They were referring to his racist, misogynist, and homophobic remarks at a dinner with German businessmen last October and to his flight, last May, on the private jet of a German pro-Russia lobbyist. Oettinger later apologised for his comments and denied wrongdoing on the jet incident.

But the MEPs said “the actions of commissioner Oettinger clearly compromise his ability to achieve this and the appointment would send the wrong message to European citizens who expect holders of high authority to lead by example, and to respect principles of democracy, transparency, diversity, and inclusion.” They added that his racist remarks could harden feeling against minorities, as "prorogued by certain political leaders and parties” in Europe. Dennis de Jong, Benedek Javor, Ana Gomes, Soraya Post, Cecile Kyenge, Jean Lambert, Cornelia Ernst, Ulrike Lunacek and Daniele Viotti signed the anti-Oettinger complaint. Several of the MEPs, who hail from left-wing and green groups, serve on committees that would oversee his new dossier.

One of the signatories, Javor, a Hungarian MEP, told EUobserver he doubted that Juncker would change his mind. But he said the commission president should not treat Thursday’s complaint lightly. "This letter is a last signal to the EU commission that its attitude and inaction with regards to Oettinger's controversial behaviour is unacceptable," he said. A group of NGOs, also on Thursday, piled on the pressure in a separate appeal to Juncker to drop Oettinger’s promotion. The controversy comes amid a broader popularity crisis for EU officials. Juncker himself is in the spotlight for shady tax deals in Luxembourg. His EU predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso, was recently shamed for becoming a lobbyist for a US bank. The EU’s former competition chief, Neelie Kroes, also received a "reprimand" for lobbying.

Non-hearing hearing
Oettinger will be quizzed on Monday (9 January) in a 90-minute hearing by MEPs from the EU parliament’s budget, budgetary control, and legal affairs committees. MEPs will then file an opinion to the parliament president and group leaders, who will discuss the issue on 12 January. The Oettinger hearing is a softer version of normal procedure. New commissioners usually face a three-hour grilling with a secret vote at the end, but Oettinger will face an "exchange of views” with no vote. Javor, the Hungarian MEP, who originally exposed Oettinger's lobbyist jet trip, said it looked as if the parliament chiefs wanted to give the German politician an easy pass. He said new rules coming in in January would have prevented the soft format. "My feeling is that they [parliament president and group leaders] pushed for a quick and early exchange of views to avoid a comprehensive hearing," the MEP told EUobserver.

Oettinger’s regret
Oettinger, a 63-year old Christian Democrat from Baden-Württemberg, a German region, said in October that Chinese people had “slant eyes” and insulted women and LGBTI people. He has already responded to some pre-hearing MEPs' written questions. He said in one response : "I very much regret that the words used during my speech may have hurt people. This was not my intention." He never sent a letter of apology to the Chinese mission to the EU, but he said he was sorry if his words "gave rise to the impression of disrespect for the people of China". He added that his “firm belief is that diversity is a strength and a core value at the heart of the European project.” He also promised women that they would represent 40 percent of commission managers by 2019.

On the private jet incident, he defended his decision not to declare his trip with the German pro-Russia lobbyist, Klaus Mangold, as a lobbyist “meeting”. He said that under a 2014 commission decision, a lobbyist meeting was defined as a "bilateral encounter organised at the initiative of an organisation or self-employed individual or a member of the commission and/or a member of his/her cabinet to discuss an issue related to policy-making and implementation in the Union.” He said that the Hungarian government organised the plane trip with Mangold, which was not a “meeting” because neither he nor Mangold had requested it.
© The EUobserver

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EU commissioner unfit for role after racist, sexist and homophobic remarks, say NGOs

HR chief Günther Oettinger should be leading by example rather than making divisive remarks, open letter states

6/1/2017- Germany’s EU commissioner Günther Oettinger is unfit to run the human resources portfolio because of his divisive record of racist, sexist and homophobic remarks, rights groups have said. In an open letter to the European Parliament, which will publicly question Oettinger on Monday, NGOs including Oxfam International and Transparency International said Oettinger was not suitable for the new job. Oettinger, previously the digital services commissioner, was named in October by commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to take on the budget and human resources dossier from Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva after she left for the World Bank. But in early November Oettinger was forced to apologise for referring to Chinese people as “slitty eyes” and making disparaging remarks about women, same-sex marriage and Belgian politicians in a speech.

The open letter said: “Commissioner Oettinger has made racist, sexist and homophobic remarks on several occasions in the past, most recently at a speech he gave in an official capacity in Hamburg on 26 October.” The groups said that at a crucial moment for the EU the human resources commissioner should lead by example and “speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia”. “In our view, Commissioner Oettinger is not the right person for this task.” A European Commission spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, said it took note of the letter but had no comment to make on Oettinger’s appointment, which became effective on Sunday.

Oettinger’s remarks about Chinese people prompted a scathing response from Beijing and red faces at the Commission. He apologised but said they were meant to give Germany a “wake-up call” over China’s increasing power and a debilitating political correctness at home. The German got into hot water again just days later for accepting a lift to Budapest in a Kremlin lobbyist’s private jet without reporting it under disclosure rules. The commission insisted he broke no ethics rules. For their part, the NGOs said this episode showed “Oettinger is unfit to inspire compliance with existing ethics and transparency rules among commission staff and his peers”.
© AFP

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Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (with a.o. Ukip) accepted Ł1.2m grant from EU last year

The Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe - which counts Ukip MEPs among its members - received a similar sum in 2015

6/1/2017- Ukip is among a number of eurosceptic parties to have benefited from millions of pounds of funding from the European Parliament, figures show. Among the hand-outs for populist and right-wing political parties represented in Brussels last year was a £1.2 million grant destined for the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE). The group includes more than a dozen Ukip MEPs as well as a member of the German far-right party AFD and other Eurosceptic MEPs from across Europe. The money can be spent on meetings and conferences, advertisements, admin and travel costs and campaigning for European elections. But the money is not allowed to be spent on other campaigns, including referenda and national elections. Scrutiny of the EU grants accepted by Eurosceptic parties follows a leaked audit obtained by Sky News last year that showed Ukip had misspent some of those funds on Brexit.

In 2015 ADDE received €1.24 million (£1.06 million) and a year later the grant increased to €1.4 million (£1.19 million). Ukip was unable to confirm what proportion of ADDE's grant the party spent on its operations in Brussels. A spokesman told The Independent that some of the money had helped support Ukip events in the UK, but only when they are attended by non-Ukip speakers, as well as a conference in Sweden. Fellow far right parties in the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom, which includes Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National party, also benefited to the tune of €1.54 million (£1.31 million) last year. A Brussels audit leaked in November revealed that Ukip misspent almost half a million pounds of EU funding on trying to win the Brexit vote and elect MPs. The party was deemed to have broken spending rules by diverting taxpayers’ cash to its own polling ahead of the EU referendum and in key target constituencies for last year’s general election.

The leaked audit focused on money provided to ADDE. It found ADDE financed polling in the UK between February and December 2015, judged as “indirect financing of a national political party” and “a referendum campaign”. In the wake of that report, the European Parliament moved to toughen rules on grants including asking political parties to provide bank guarantees before they can access EU money. The European Parliament has also reduced the advance sum of money given to the ADDE for activities in 2017 in case the group misspends the money and is unable to repay it. A spokesperson for the European Parliament said: “The European Parliament is concerned that grants for European political parties are spent for the aims intended and clearly laid down in the rules. “Those aims do not include campaigns for national referenda and elections or the funding of national parties and election candidates.”
© The Independent

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East German landlords 'stop renting to politicians, fearing attacks'

Politicians from Die Linke (the Left Party) and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) are struggling to find homes and office space in the febrile political atmosphere of eastern Germany, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

6/1/2017- Susanne Schaper, a politician for Die Linke in the state parliament in Saxony, hasn’t had a constituency office since October. Neo-Nazis attacked her office in Chemnitz, throwing paint-filled light bulbs through the windows and scrawling “I love national socialism” across the wall. Her landlord cancelled her contract on the property in October 2016. Since then she has not managed to find new premises, but has been rejected ten times. Schaper understands that landlords are afraid their properties could be burnt to the ground, but told the Süddeustche Zeitung (SZ) that it is “a completely wrong signal to send.” The Linke politician is far from the only elected official in eastern Germany who has gone through such an experience. Frauke Petry, the leader of the AfD, struggled to find an apartment in her constituency of Leipzig, with landlords also fearing damage to their properties.

In Saxony, a state on the border with the Czech Republic and Poland, Die Linke recorded 45 attacks on their offices last year, while the AfD reported 32. In the states of former East Germany, Die Linke, which is situated on the far-left of the political mainstream, and the AfD, situated on the far right, are much more popular than in the former West. Die Linke are the major party in the ruling coalition in the state of Thuringia, while in state elections in 2016 the AfD won over 20 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Both parties are controversial due to heir histories and political stances. Die Linke grew out of the SED, the ruling party in totalitarian East Germany. The AfD are strongly anti-refugee. Petry suggested last year that immigrants could be shot if they cross Germany's borders illegally.
© The Local - Germany

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German police seize 100kg of explosives from home of teenager 'plotting far right attack'

The teenager is being held alongside a 24-year-old man suspected of involvement.

6/1/2017- German police seized more than 100kg of explosives from the home of a teenager they suspect of plotting a right-wing terror attack. Officers removed 100kg to 150kg of fireworks and other explosives materials from the home of the 18 year old in Lauterecken, Rhineland-Palatinate, reported AFP. Officers had to evacuate 87 residents from homes near the teenager's residence and seal off the area to traffic as they removed the explosives. Police are investigating whether the teenager was planning an attack in Kaiserslautern with a 24-year-old man from North Rhine-Westphalia. The pair are currently being held by police on suspicion of illegally possessing explosives and preparing to commit an act of serious violence. Police are investigating whether the pair belong to a right-wing organisation. In recent years there has been an increase in support for extremist groups in Germany, according to a report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in June 2015. "The intensity of right-wing extremist militancy started in early 2015 and increased steadily – from threats against politicians and journalists to arson attacks on asylum-seeker shelters, and attempted killings," said the report.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Germany reacts to misleading 'Breitbart' New Year's Eve report

The right-wing publication has falsely reported that Arab men set fire to Germany's oldest church while shouting "God is great." Dortmund police described the evening as "rather average to quiet."

6/1/2017- Germany on Friday reacted to an unsubstantiated news report published by American right-wing publication "Breitbart" that claimed a "mob" chanting "God is great" in Arabic had set fire to a Dortmund church on New Year's Eve. Under the headline "Revealed: 1,000-man mob attack police, set Germany's oldest church alight on New Year's Eve," the news site claimed that "more than 1,000 men chanted 'Allahu Akhbar,' launched fireworks at police and set fire to a historic church." However, local newspaper "Ruhr Nachrichten" said that parts of its reporting on New Year's Eve had been taken out of context and distorted to produce "fake news, hate and propaganda." "Breitbart" reported that the men seen in a video posted by "Ruhr Nachrichten" reporter Peter Bandermann had amassed "around the flag of al-Qaeda and 'Islamic State' collaborators, the 'Free Syrian Army.'" However, the flag seen in the video is widely used by various elements of the Syrian opposition, and dates to Syria's independence from French occupation. In the tweet, Bandermann wrote that the Syrians had been celebrating an "armistice in their country."

'Rather average' night
Meanwhile, netting over scaffolding near a historic church in the city had witnessed a small fire due to wayward fireworks. Authorities said the fire had been put out within 12 minutes and did not damage the structure. Police said the evening had passed "rather average to quiet," noting that the number of reported incidents fell sharply compared to last year. Eva Kühne-Hörmann, justice minister of Hesse state, on Friday warned of the consequences disinformation could have in Germany. "The danger is that these stories spread with incredible speed and take on lives of their own," she said. The story published by "Breitbart" comes amid reports that the right-wing publication seeks to expand in Europe, specifically Germany and France, which are preparing for a momentous election year. The publication's influence has expanded since its creation in 2007 after US President-elect Donald Trump nominated Steve Bannon, a former "Breitbart" editor, as his chief strategist.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Is 'racial profiling' illegal? Depends on where you live

Cologne police have been accused of racial profiling after targeting men of North African appearance on New Year's Eve. In the US racial profiling is illegal, but in Germany and the UK the law isn't as clear.

3/1/2017- There is no law in Germany that explicitly prevents a police officer from stopping and checking someone for the way he or she looks. Police in Cologne have drawn some criticism for focusing their attention on men who looked as if they might come from North Africa this past New Year's Eve. They have denied the accusations of racial profiling, even though the practice isn't expressly forbidden in Germany. Racial profiling refers to procedures in which people are subjected to special checks by police or are detained on the basis of their ethnicity. Germany does have an anti-discrimination law. The general law of equal treatment (AGG) states that all people should be treated equally and not be disadvantaged because of their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or a disability.

Anti-discrimination law for private interactions
When people feel they have been discriminated against, they can invoke the AGG and present instances where they allege that they were treated unfairly. The burden of proof then lies with the accused - they have to prove that they did not discriminate against the claimant. This law is not applicable in potential racial profiling cases, however, as it covers only interactions between two private parties: for example, between employers and employees. Interactions between the state - represented by police - and an individual do not fall under this law. In general, discrimination is prohibited in the German constitution, the "Grundgesetz," but there is no equivalent to the strict AGG that specifically covers racial profiling by police. In many German states, police are in fact allowed to stop people and check their IDs without providing a specific reason. These "event-unrelated controls" were first introduced in Bavaria in 1996 and were instituted in all but three of Germany's 16 states by 2006. The legality of this legislation, however, was called into question by one court that ruled police cannot stop and ask people for ID based on their skin color.

Driving while black
In the United States, racial profiling has been at the center of heated debates for years. There's even a term for a driver being stopped by officers for no discernible reason other than his or her skin color: driving while black. Going by the letter of the law, racial profiling is illegal in the United States. In June 2003, the US Department of Justice issued its "Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies," banning racial profiling by federal law enforcement officials. Back in February 2001, then-President George W. Bush had spoken out against the practice. "Racial profiling is wrong, and we will end it in America," Bush said in an address to Congress. "By stopping the abuses of a few, we will add to the public confidence our police officers earn and deserve." But since the deaths of black men like Michael Brown or Eric Garner at the hands of police, public confidence in law enforcement has suffered, the law against racial profiling notwithstanding.

Search without suspicion
In the UK, police officers are allowed to search an individual without reasonable suspicion under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. A senior police officer has to authorize the use of this policy in his or her district. Ministry of Justice statistics show that black and Asian people are more likely to be searched under Section 60 than white people are, which is why numerous British activists have been fighting the law for years. They accuse the police of racial profiling. But in January 2016 the UK Supreme Court ruled that Section 60 was in accordance with the law and did not need to be changed.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ is a best-seller for 2016

3/1/2017- The annotated edition of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” sold 85,000 copies in the one year since it was released in print for the first time since World War II. “Hitler, Mein Kampf: A Critical Edition” is in its eighth printing, according to the Spiegel newspaper, which noted that the book topped its best-seller list in April. The 70-year copyright in the German state of Bavaria of the anti-Semitic tract, whose title means “My Struggle,” expired on Jan. 1, 2016, allowing it to be published in the country. The publication was controversial: Some Jewish groups endorsed the annotated edition and others opposed it. The Munich Institute for Contemporary History said it published the book to preempt uncritical and unannotated versions, and that it hoped the new edition would help destroy the book’s cult status.

Its first run of 4,000 sold almost immediately, the German dpa news agency reported. “It turned out that the fear the publication would promote Hitler’s ideology or even make it socially acceptable and give neo-Nazis a new propaganda platform was totally unfounded,” institute director Andreas Wirsching said in a statement to dpa. “To the contrary, the debate about Hitler’s worldview and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and right-wing slogans are gaining ground.” Other editions of “Mein Kampf” remain available for purchase via the internet.
© JTA News.

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German state of Brandenburg may not deport far-right victims

Brandenburg is the first German state to pass a rule forbidding the deportation of asylum seekers who have been victims or witnesses of violent crimes. Authorities hope this could curb the rise in far-right crimes.

4/1/2017- The German state of Brandenburg will not deport asylum seekers if they have been victimized by right-wing violence. Local media reported on Tuesday that Brandenburg's Interior Ministry had asked local authorities to use the leeway available to them to make sure foreigners whose asylum applications had been rejected, but who had been victims of right-wing attacks, could stay in the country. With the decree issued on December 21, the Interior Ministry implemented a resolution Brandenburg's parliament had passed in April. The directive posits that victims of crimes and witnesses to crimes of a certain severity should be allowed to stay in Germany. This includes crimes such as attempted murder, assault, arson and bomb attacks, but also kidnapping, theft, blackmail, public riots and sexual offenses. Asylum seekers who have committed a crime or share responsibility for a violent incident are exempt from the new rule.

Right-wing offenses on the rise
According to local daily "Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten," which first reported on the decree, the eastern state that surrounds Berlin is the only German state with this type of policy. Far right-wing crime against foreigners has been on the rise in Germany over the past two years amid an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers. Eastern Germany, in particular, has long struggled with far-right extremism. According to local TV station rbb, right-wing offenses in Brandenburg increased by 23 percent in 2015.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Austrian defence minister eyes plan to overhaul EU migrant policy

5/1/2017- Austria's defence minister has drafted a plan that would overhaul the European Union's migrant policy by establishing a ceiling for migration and only permitting applications for asylum from outside the EU, Germany's Bild newspaper reported on Thursday. Hans Peter Doskozil, a Social Democrat, told the newspaper the changes were urgently needed to create a more orderly system of legal migration for those entitled to asylum in the bloc. "It's about ending the failed European asylum policies. We must admit to ourselves and be honest that the EU has limited capacity to absorb more migrants. We must stop illegal immigration," Bild quoted the minister as saying. Doskozil will present the plan at a meeting of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) in February and aims "to promote the plan forcefully in Brussels," his spokesman said.

Bild said Doskozil's plan calls for an EU migration ceiling based on limits set by member states, which would effectively force countries like Germany that do not currently have such a limit to establish one. Doskozil's plan also calls for the creation of asylum centres in countries such as Niger, Jordan and Uzbekistan, potentially using existing facilities of the United Nations Refugee Agency. Migrants who were denied asylum or those who entered the EU illegally but could not be returned to their home countries would be transferred to "protective zones" that were linked to asylum centres, the newspaper said. The ministry spokesman, citing the plan, said those migrants judged to be in need of protection would be transferred to an EU country, depending on the capacity of that country for integrating more migrants. Asylum applications would be evaluated by teams of experts from EU member countries, the spokesman said.

Doskozil told the newspaper that his plan would also benefit potential asylum seekers who needed help but had not been able to apply in the past because they could not afford the passage to Europe. Austria's centrist government tightened migration laws last year amid strong gains for the anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO), whose candidate Norbert Hofer made it to a December presidential election run-off. Austria announced a cap on asylum claims of 37,500 last year after taking in 90,000 asylum seekers during Europe's migration crisis in 2015.
© Reuters UK.

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Russia brands anti-racism body SOVA as a foreign agent

5/1/2017- Russia’s staging of the 2018 World Cup has been placed under fresh scrutiny following reports that a Moscow-based non-governmental think tank specialising in monitoring racism and extremism has been blacklisted by the authorities. According to Football Against Racism in Europe, the widely respected network that reports cases of discrimination in European football, the highly authoritative SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis has been dubbed a foreign agent following an unscheduled inspection of its offices. Since 2014 the SOVA Center has published two influential reports in conjunction with Fare on the situation in Russian domestic football and a third is due out soon. In 2015, the two organisations combined to produce a detailed breakdown of discriminatory incidents in Russian football over two years which cited, among other things, 72 displays of neo-Nazi symbols.

Organisers of the World Cup have constantly been at pains to point out that discrimination of all types is taken extremely seriously and that measures are being stepped up to eliminate racist incidents but Piara Powar, Executive Director of Fare, said the latest move, if true since it does not appear to have been corroborated officially, would prove counter-productive. “Through the insights they offer SOVA conducts valuable work for Russian society,” said Powar. “ Without them a lot of extremist activity in Russia would go unrecorded and unknown. “The impact of this move could be felt in football and in particular the World Cup in 2018. Reliable information on the activities of the far-right and nationalist groupings in football will become harder to follow and measures for dealing with it harder to implement.”

According to Fare, Russia’s 2012 law on foreign agents means NGOs face stiff police and governmental scrutiny and Alexander Verkhovsky, Director of the SOVA Centre, was quoted as saying: “According to Russian legislation, organisations are listed as ‘foreign agents’ if they receive foreign funding in any form (which we, of course, receive) and engage in ‘political activity’. The latter is interpreted very broadly. In our case it was suggested that we provide assessment of state bodies’ activity publicly. It is obvious that almost any NGO provides such an assessment. This means that in order to list us as a ‘foreign agent’ some additional arguments are needed. “The inclusion of SOVA in the list of ‘foreign agents’ means a number of unpleasant things for us, including the obligation to indicate this everywhere. Most importantly, we know that some of our potential partners could be simply afraid to work with us. And this may lead to limiting our activity.”
© Inside World Football.

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Irish Times slammed by human rights leader over Alt-right article

The Irish Times has defended its publication of a 'fawning' article on the Alt-right movement.

5/1/2017- The piece by Irish-based US writer Nicholas Pell has caused a storm of controversy after it included a glossary of derogatory terms the white nationalist group uses to describe black people, women and people who may have changed gender. The movement, whose members have been characterised as espousing neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist views, came to prominence in recent months due to its support of incoming US President Donald Trump. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) said it had logged 37 complaints about the article via its iReport.ie racist incident reporting system as of 6pm on Thursday.

ENAR Ireland director Shane O’Curry said the level of complaints was “off the charts”. It normally receives just two or three reports per week relating to media racism. “The complaints are a reflection of the public opprobrium the Irish Times has provoked in giving a platform to a blogger with far right sympathies and uncritically furnishing readers with a lexicon devised by the far-right as though it were fact,” he said. Mr O’Curry said ENAR Ireland would be complaining to the newspaper. Amnesty executive director Colm O’Gorman described the article as “dangerous”, “unbelievable” and “just extraordinary”. He was not alone in condemning the piece, which has unleashed a barrage of negative commentary on social media platforms. One Irish Times columnist, Maeve Higgins, tweeted that the article was “gross”.

Mr O’Gorman said it was a huge surprise that the news outlet “would publish what effectively is such a fawning piece about an ideology and a movement which spends most of its time preaching sneering hate”. “I’m sure their own readers and people working in the Irish Times will be making those views very clear to their senior editors,” he said. “For a start, if you want to convey what the ideology of the so-called Alt-right is about, you need to name it for what it is. “It is a white supremacist, misogynistic ultra-conservative ideology that wants to put women and minorities in particular kinds of boxes and that wants to assert some view of white male dominant power as the norm and acceptable order. “It is extraordinary that any serious publication would run a fawning piece that in no way names or challenges those obvious facts. It is bizarre.”

Mr O’Gorman said it was important for news outlets to give voice to very diverse views, but the Alt-right article had crossed a line. “I often find myself passionately disagreeing with things that are written in the Irish Times and the Irish Independent, but they usually give me reason to reflect or to think or there is stuff to engage with there. That is really valuable,” he said. “Nobody wants a media that just spouts a lazy, unchallenging or uncontroversial narrative. Nobody wants that. “But this kind of stuff is just vacuous and worse than that, I actually think it is dangerous to give space to somebody who gives a fawning description of an ideology that is hateful and deeply misogynistic and xenophobic without in any way naming that is grossly irresponsible.”

Shortly after 12.30pm Irish Times Opinion Editor John McManus responded with a piece titled: 'Why we published Nicholas Pell’s article on the Alt-right'. He conceded that there had been "considerable adverse comment" on their decision to publish the piece. He said its purpose was to "stimulate and advance arguments about matters of public interest". "The piece by Nicholas Pell met these criteria. At a minimum it decodes a lot of the Alt-right movement’s language and at best it gives a clear indication of its thinking and ideology." He continued: "The existence of the Alt-right cannot be simply ignored. It was a factor in the US election and is closely associated with figures in the incoming administration. We would argue, moreover, that anybody who seriously opposes it should want the public to know what the Alt-right really stand for.

"Ultimately we trust in the ability of our readers to make their own minds up. We believe they expect to read things from time to time that challenge them. "Some of the language in the piece has clearly offended people which was not our intention. We felt on balance that that leaving it in gave a deeper insight into the nature of the Alt-right movement." Mr Pell, a freelance writer who has previously been published by the Washington Post, LA Weekly and Playboy, defended his article and said he had “no regrets” about the way in which it was written. He said he was “not Alt-right” but some of his views overlap with those of the movement. “Mostly my overlap with them is seeing the establishment on the left and the establishment on the right take one on the nose,” he said.

He said he had voted for Donald Trump and was supportive of so-called “new right” European parties. “I wrote this piece and I sent it off to the Irish Times. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from them, but they emailed me back straight away and said 'we are going to run with it',” he said. In relation to offensive Alt-right terms listed in the article to describe black people and people with gender identity issues, Mr Pell said these were not terms he would use himself. “All I did was explain what these terms mean. People have been reacting like I created them,” he said. However, he said he would not condemn the use of such terminology. “I am not in the habit of telling people what words they should and shouldn’t say,” he said. Asked if he was worried people might call him a racist, he said: “I don’t give a sh** if people call me that. “I think ‘racism’ is a curse word that leftists use to shut down discussion.”
The original article received a mixed reaction on Twitter.
© The Irish Independent

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France's far-right FN scrambles for election funding

5/1/2017- France's far-right National Front says it is scrambling to find funding to fight its 2017 presidential election campaign, accusing French banks of playing politics by refusing to lend cash. Marine Le Pen's National Front (FN) has borrowed about 6 million euros from her estranged father and party founder Jean-Marie - an ironic twist since she threw him out of the party, but a vital move now with her back to the wall over financing. At the same time, Russia has started legal proceedings to recover a 9 million euro ($9.45 million) loan from the FN after the bank the party borrowed from in 2014 had its licence revoked. The impact this will have on the party's finances is unclear. "We have additional funding to find. We'll find it," Marine Le Pen told reporters. "It's half (of what we need), but we'll find it," she said, adding that she was unfazed by this but without giving further details. "We'll end up finding it. We will find one bank somewhere in the world that is willing to lend us that money," she said.

The FN said in December it needed 27 million euros for presidential and parliamentary election campaigning. The FN received the 9 million euro loan from First Czech-Russian bank to cover other election campaigning costs. But the bank later lost its license to operate. Potential Russian influence over western elections has become a sensitive issue since U.S. intelligence agencies accused their Russian counterparts of seeking to disrupt the U.S. election through hacking and cyber attacks. Moscow has denied the allegations. There is a lot at stake for Le Pen, who has moderated her party's image to broaden its appeal before the spring election and who pollsters say has a good chance of getting through to the runoff vote for the Elysee in May. Asked by journalists recently if her party was knocking on Russian banks' doors this time round too, Le Pen frankly admitted she was scouring all corners for cash. "I'm looking everywhere, including in the United States, including in Britain, absolutely everywhere," she said.

Le Pen said that, unlike mainstream parties, the FN had not managed to secure any loans from French banks. "French banks are playing a political role," she said, suggesting her party was being unjustly marginalised because of its far-right programme. Le Pen has the support of around a quarter of French voters according to opinion polls, but campaign funding for the anti-immigrant and euro-sceptical party has long been an issue. There is a funding ceiling that candidates in French presidential elections cannot overshoot. In 2012 that was 16.85 million euros for candidates taking part in the first round and 21.51 million for those taking part in the second round. FN Secretary General Nicolas Bay shared Le Pen's views on the behaviour of French banks. "They are acting in an anti-democratic way," he told reporters on Wednesday. "Democracy would require banks to lend to all candidates."

Le Pen's party has struck a deal with her father for his mini-party Cotelec to lend it some 6 million euros in tranches, her campaign director David Rachline told Reuters at the end of December. "The deal (on the loan) was concluded months ago," Rachline said, without giving further details. The split between Le Pen senior and his daughter, who took the helm of the party in 2011, ended up with the father being kicked out of the party in August last year. As for the older loan, Russia's state Deposit Insurance Agency told the RNS news agency in late December it had acquired the right to recover the defunct bank's assets. "Before the bank's operating license was revoked, the right to claim under the credit agreement with the French National Front party was ceded to a third party. Currently, this transaction is being disputed in court," RNS quoted the agency as saying.
Reuters in Moscow could not reach the Deposit Insurance Agency for comment.
© Reuters

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French Court Convicts English Soccer Fans Of 'Racist Violence'

4/1/2017- A French court has convicted four British men of racist violence for pushing a black man off the Paris metro as fans chanted, "We're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it." The incident, which was caught on video by a bystander, happened in February 2015. In the video, a group of Chelsea football club supporters can be seen repeatedly shoving a black man off a crowded metro train as he tries to board. The video went viral, and as the Two-Way reported, prompted Chelsea to suspend the fans from attending games. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reported that on Tuesday a French judge "convicted four men and handed down suspended prison sentences and fines." She said, "Only two of the men showed up for their trial. They denied uttering racist slurs but said they had been drinking. The others were convicted in absentia."

Eleanor reported that the victim, Souleyman Sylla, said on French radio that bringing the men to justice was important. "They needed to know they hurt a family man and that this incident really traumatized my children," he said. The Guardian reported that Sylla told the court "his life had been 'shaken up' by the violence" and that "he had had to stop work for different periods, did not use the metro for nine months and had been on medication." The Guardian wrote that the four men were ordered to pay Sylla a total of €10,000 (about $10,500), adding: "The French state prosecutor said the trial was a defining moment in anti-racism cases and a 'clear-cut example' of racism: it was rare to have such an unabashed violently racist incident that was brazenly accompanied by the chanting seen in the video footage."

The four men — Joshua Parsons, James Fairbairn, William Simpson and Richard Barklie — have all denied they were in any way racially motivated. Parsons, who admitted he pushed Sylla, said he had been drinking before Chelsea's match against Paris Saint Germain but that the "we're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it" chant came from a different metro car, the Guardian wrote. Chelsea has since issued lifetime bans for all four men.
© NPR

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Greek asylum claims spike due to backlogs

6/1/2017- Greek asylum applications registered a massive jump late last year, but experts pin it mainly to a backlog. The Greek Asylum Service noted a 593 percent increase of asylum applications in November alone, or around 7,600 claims, compared to 2015's monthly average of 1,100. The spike appears to be broadly linked to a large-scale pre-registration programme launched over the summer and a doubling of staff at the Greek Asylum Service. "We are now seeing the process of all those people trying to get a foothold in the asylum system actually formally being registered", Minos Mouzourakis, a migration expert at the Brussels-based European council on refugees and exiles (Ecre), told EUobserver on Thursday (5 January). Tens of thousands were stranded in Greece after Western Balkan borders were closed early last year. With people no longer able to get further north, many ended up in ad-hoc camps on the mainland, with luckier ones finding accommodation in hotels or in apartments.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) set up some 21,000 accommodation places in apartments, with host families, or in other buildings. Government built camps were also established around the country. Greek authorities, along with the EU asylum agency EASO and the UNHCR, had also carried out a pre-registration exercise in June, with those claims now being processed. "Since people were pre-registered around June and July, it was expected that the first claims register would not start until October and November because people had to be given an appointment. This is kind of a slow process until its full completion", said Mouzourakis. The Malta-based EASO agency drew similar conclusions. "The applications lodged in Greece indeed increased during the course of the year," said EASO spokesperson Jean-Pierre Schembri. Schembri linked the increase to both the large group of candidate-applicants after the June pre-registration campaign and the work of the Greek authorities, along with its various partners.

Double the staff
An increase in staffing at the Greek Asylum Service also likely played a part in the November spike. The service had around 300 staff at the end of 2015, now up to 617. It is also now present on the Greek islands, where people continue landing after crossing from Turkey. Fewer people are arriving following last year's EU-Turkey migrant swap deal, but the islands remain overcrowded and in poor conditions. Frontex, the EU border agency, on Thursday reported a 79 percent drop in arrivals to Greece, when compared to 2015. But around 182,500 migrants, mostly Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis, still arrived on the Aegean islands and mainland last year. Some 15,687 people seeking asylum are now on the islands, with Greek government structures only able to accommodate just over half.

Winter cold
"Even with recent efforts to improve matters, conditions at many sites on the islands remain very poor", UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in a statement. Edwards said conditions on Samos, Chios and Lesvos islands are particularly bad given the cold weather. In Samos, many have no heating. Authorities are still struggling to transfer those on the islands to the mainland. Greek asylum minister Yiannis Mouzalas in December vowed to improve living conditions in the camps on the islands. On Thursday, he told reporters that the government had completed processes to keep migrants and refugees out of the cold. “There are no refugees or migrants living in the cold anymore. We successfully completed the procedures for overwintering”, he said. Mouzalas also reportedly said the vast majority of people now arriving from Turkey to the islands are economic migrants, not from war-torn places like Syria or Iraq. He also said NGOs that don't register with the government ministry by March will be banned from working on the islands.
© The EUobserver

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Greek minister says most migrants no longer are refugees

5/1/2017- Greece's minister for migration says most people entering the country illegally from Turkey no longer are refugees, but economic migrants. Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said Thursday that the people arriving on Greek islands from are not predominantly from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq, a shift from the mass arrivals in 2015. Mouzalas praised a 10-month-old deportation deal between the European Union and Turkey that human rights groups have criticized. He claims that 100,000 more migrants and refugees would have been stranded in Greece without the agreement. Greece has reported that about 60,000 people are stranded in the country due to border closures elsewhere in Europe last year. Most live in government-built camps or state-sponsored housing schemes.
© The Associated Press

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Croatia Accused of Illegally Deporting Refugees

After the Jesuit Refugee Service accused the Croatian authorities of illegally deporting refugees, the Croatian Interior Ministry has denied that such expulsions are against international law.

4/1/2017- Croatia has illegally deported refugees to Serbia, breaking international laws, the Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS, in the country claims. The Catholic organisation said it had reported the Croatian Interior Ministry to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and to the Croatian ombudsman's office, the head of the JRS for south-eastern Europe, Tvrtko Barun, told a TV show on Tuesday. Barun said a number of people who had requested asylum in Croatia had, after a short procedure, been deported to Serbia. “The police ... put them in Jezevo [a holding centre near Zagreb], and then sent them to Serbia. This is a violation of international law,” he said on the show, adding that his service had not received an answer as yet to its complaint from UNHCR or the ombudsman's office.

In a statement, JRS explained that one specific case they were referring to, a person from Afghanistan, had sought asylum in Croatia but was nevertheless deported to Serbia. This was a “direct violation of the right of access to a fair and effective process of obtaining international protection”, it said. Barun said that this was not an isolated case, adding that from 2014 onwards Croatia had offered only 251 people some form of protection according to international law. The Croatian Interior Ministry on Tuesday responded that all migrants who do not seek the country's protection are liable to be deported from Croatia and from the EU. The ministry added that the number of people seeking international protection in Croatia “drastically rose” in 2016, with 2,230 requests compared to 211 requests in 2015.

The UNHCR in late December said that Serbia had also deported refugees, to Bulgaria and Macedonia. Serbia's Labour and Social Rights Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, replied at the time that no one was illegally deported from Serbia, and that everyone who entered the procedure for attaining asylum had a right to remain until the process was over. Hundreds of thousands of refugees crossed the so-called "Balkan route" in 2016, moving through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia towards Western Europe. The route was closed in March 2016.
© Balkan Insight

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UK: Old man attacking Muslim woman in Wales proves growing Islamophobia

A 75-year-old man who racially abused a Muslim woman in veil was fined 258 pounds due to his old age in Swansea, a coastal city in Wales.

5/1/2017- Bert Fahy, a 75-year-old Irish man, appeared at the Swansea Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to racially and religiously aggravated public order. On Nov. 22, Fahy attacked a Polish Muslim woman who was wearing a veil in Wales. He swore and shouted at the Muslim woman and loudly said: "take that f*****g thing off your face" and "go back to your own country," in the middle of the street. The woman, who has been living in Britain for nine years, followed the man to note his address and then called the police. Representing Fahy at the court, Anthony O'Connell said his client was "fearful" because he couldn't see the woman's eyes, according to local reports. District judge David Parson told to Fahy that only his "clean character" and "age" was saving him from a jail sentence and Fahy was also ordered to pay the Muslim victim a 200 pound compensation.

Speaking about the incident, Aliya Mohammed, Chief Executive Officer at Race Equality First, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that hate crimes are a growing problem in the community. "In Swansea we have seen a Polish Muslim woman challenged, intimidated and verbally abused by a 75-year-old man for covering her face. We live in a democracy and women have every right to dress as they choose. "No woman deserves to be harassed for the way that she looks or dresses," she said and added, "Hate crime is a tarnish on the fabric of our society and it is unfortunately a growing problem that we are seeing people from our diverse communities face." There has been a surge in hate crimes across Britain in the wake of June's referendum, which saw Britons vote to exit the EU with immigration as one of the key issues. At its peak, there was a 58 percent increase in hate crimes and police recorded more than 14,000 such crimes in the period running from a week before the vote to mid-August.

The Muslim Council of Britain, the U.K.'s largest Muslim umbrella body, wrote a letter last month to major British leaders to stand in solidarity with Muslim communities and called for political leadership on the worrying growth in Islamophobia in the country. Tell Mama, a British group that monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said more than 100 mosques and Islamic organizations in the last three and a half years were targets of anti-Muslim attacks across the country. In a shock referendum result, Britain voted on June 23 to leave the 28-nation European Union. Pro-Brexit supporters campaigned heavily on immigration and the need to regain control on Britain's borders, in a referendum battle fought against the backdrop of Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.

As well as "intolerance," which it said was promoted by the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), the report also noted criticism of Prime Minister David Cameron when he spoke in July 2015 about a "swarm" of migrants trying to reach Britain. In response to increasing violence against Muslims and refugees across the country, The British government plans to ban an extreme right wing group, National Action under the Terrorism Act 2000 - the first time a right-wing organization has been banned under the legislation.
© The Daily Sabah

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UK: Threat from far-right a growing concern, says Yorkshire counter-terror chief

A senior Yorkshire counter-terrorism official has revealed the “growing concern” at the danger posed by far-right groups in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox by a neo-Nazi fanatic.

3/1/2017- Detective Superintendent Nik Adams, the North East regional co-ordinator for the Government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent strategy, said there was a “real risk” the threat posed to the public by far-right extremists could grow “if left untapped and unchallenged”. Last month, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that National Action, a neo-Nazi and British nationalist youth movement which has been active in Yorkshire, would be the country’s first proscribed far-right group. Det Supt Adams said: “That reflects the growing concern about the risks that extreme right-wing groups pose.” He added: “Historically what you would see from the far-right was public disorder, public protest, that would have an impact on community cohesion, people’s sense of wellbeing and belonging.

“That sort of behaviour over time has become more concerning and when you layer on things like the murder of Jo Cox, for which Thomas Mair was convicted a few weeks ago, who was vocal in his extreme right-wing views, whilst we are not looking at intelligence suggesting we have got a growing number of Thomas Mairs, it is a concern that if left untapped and unchallenged, there is a real risk that could grow and we could see further incidents.” His warning came as details emerged of efforts by Prevent officials to deter a 14-year-old West Yorkshire boy from being drawn into terrorism after he started expressing anti-Muslim views at school. Det Supt Adams said this was the kind of work done by Prevent on a day-to-day basis, though his case differed from that of Mair, the white supremacist terrorist who murdered Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in Birstall last summer. He said: “When you look at some of the publicity around Thomas Mair, close family, friends, neighbours, were saying he hadn’t displayed any of those behaviours.

“Only they will know if that is completely true, but it is not just young people, everyone can be vulnerable. If you are lost in life and don’t feel you belong, don’t feel you have a valuable stake in society, you are vulnerable to an extremist coming and presenting you with an alternative, presenting you with ‘here is a group of people that will accept you, nurture you, and will encourage you, here are some good things you can do which you will receive praise for’, all of which as far as society is concerned are bad, harmful, dangerous things.” Recent years have seen a series of far-right protests held across Yorkshire, meaning local police have to spend millions of pounds keeping the peace. Between the start of 2012 and October 2016, South Yorkshire Piolice spent £4,672,083 on policing demonstrations by the far-right, with a single demonstration in Rotherham in September 2014 costing just over £1m.

In 2011, the Government’s Prevent strategy was refreshed to make it clear it is about all forms of radicalisation, not just Islamic extremism. Simon Cole, police lead for the Prevent programme, said earlier in the year that while the main focus was Islamist extremism, he said there were big regional variations. Concerns over far-right extremists make up half of all referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the East Midlands. Police want to release more information about the number of referrals they receive “over time”, but say in general the proportion of Islamic vs far-Right referrals received was consistent with the demographic in the local area.
© The Yorkshire Post

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Poland: Radio Maryja Criticized in Tel Aviv University Presentation

6/1/2017- Members of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association have participated in a series of meetings in Israel in late December and early January, including the international conference of senior educators on ‘The Shoah and Jewish identity’ held at Yad Vashem Institute (Jerusalem). Dr Rafal Pankowski, a co-founder of ‘NEVER AGAIN’, was invited to give a presentation about the current state of antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland at the Tel Aviv University Kantor Centre for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry headed by Professor Dina Porat. The presentation, followed by a lively discussion, was held at the Tel Aviv University campus on 1 January 2017.

Although the number of Jews in today's Poland is very small, antisemitism is present in the public discourse in various settings: from the football stadium to academia and church. Antisemitism can be seen as a paradigmatic form of prejudice, a popular expression of hostility to liberal democracy in Poland and other countries in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The linkage between antisemitism ‎and the rapid rise of other types of xenophobia was stressed during the debate. It was illustrated by the spectacular burning of an effigy of a Chasidic Jew during an anti-refugee demonstration organized by the neo-fascist National-Radical Camp (ONR) in Wroclaw in November 2015.

Radio Maryja, the nationalist-Catholic radio station run by the Redemptorist order, has been the single most powerful disseminator of antisemitic discourse for the last 25 years, as documented in numerous reports by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, the Anti-Defamation League, the Council of Europe, and other organizations. According to the US State Department report on Global Antisemitism to the Congress in 2008, ‘Radio Maryja is one of Europe’s most blatantly anti-Semitic media venues.’ Radio Maryja’s founder, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, himself has frequently engaged in antisemitic speech on air, e.g. he routinely referred to Polish State Television as ‘TELAVision’, suggesting it was dominated by Jews. In one of his broadcasts, Rydzyk openly degraded the Jewish religion: ‘I call it ai vai shalom. It is clearly a religion of trade. It is trade, and not religion.’

Surprisingly, Rydzyk was received as a guest by the current Israeli Ambassador to Warsaw, Anna Azari, in September 2016. The publicized meeting was met with raised eyebrows among Polish civil society and an open letter of protest to the embassy was written by several highly respected figures in the Polish Jewish community, such as Konstanty Gebert, Stanislaw Krajewski, and Joanna Sobolewska-Pyz. The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association expressed its disappointment, too. Nevertheless, the contacts between the Israeli Embassy and Radio Maryja continued and the embassy was represented at ceremonies organized by Father Rydzyk in his powerbase, the city of Torun. Another meeting took place on 26 November 2016 in the form of a shabbat dinner attended by Father Rydzyk, Ambassador Azari, the Director of the Zionist Organization of America Morton Kleinand, and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Yehiel Bar (Labour Party).

- ‘I believe it is a moral and political mistake to enter into such unholy alliances with Father Rydzyk’ - said Rafal Pankowski who is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Warsaw’s Collegium Civitas. - ‘It amounts to legitimizing Radio Maryja and its xenophobic ideology.’ ‎He pointed to the fact Radio Maryja continues to promote radically antisemitic views. For example, during a religious ceremony broadcast on Radio Maryja and its associated TV network on 3 September 2016, Father Rydzyk reprimanded the faithful by shouting: ‘This is not a synagogue!’ ‎On 5 October 2016, the regular Radio Maryja commentator Stanislaw Michalkiewicz read his column on air saying: ‘The Jewish circles in Poland are tasked with providing the European Commission with as many proofs as possible that democracy and the rule of law in our unhappy country is threatened by the fascist regime.’‎

On 20 October 2016, Michalkiewicz authored another lengthy antisemitic rant, saying among others: ‘Today the mischevious Jews understood what it is about and they transformed themselves into liberals.’ On 23 November 2016, Radio Maryja aired Michalkiewicz’s weekly antisemitic broadcast in which he alleged ‘the Jewish lobby in Poland demonstrates its racial solidarity with the Ukrainian oligarchs.’ In December 2016, Michalkiewicz toured Polish churches and cultural centres in the US, spreading his antisemitic conspiracy theories. - ‘The levels of far-right activity, hate speech and hate crime in Poland have risen rapidly since the summer of 2015’ - said Rafal Pankowski. - ‘They must be condemned and confronted, not ignored or condoned.’

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is a Warsaw-based anti-racist educational and monitoring organization established in 1996.
© NEVER AGAIN Association.

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Polish racism in a Mazurian kebab shop

It started with a firecracker – and ended with a knife to the stomach. The tragedy in Elk is the result of extreme right-wing propaganda.

4/1/2017- Place: Elk, a sixty-thousand strong city in the Polish region of Mazury. Time: the last night of the year. Action: A bar brawl ended with the death of a twenty-one-year-old Polish man. Sadly, this is nowhere near an isolated occurrence: not so long ago, similar incidents of bar brawls escalating to knifing to death took place in Sopot, Radom and Warsaw. But the Elk stabbing is special nonetheless: it sparked riots lasting for two days now. Lynching almost took place, more than thirty people were arrested, a wave of hatred is sweeping social networks, nationalist organizations urge revenge against the supposed murdered. Why? Simple: the accident took place in front of a kebab shop and foreign workers from the fast food took part in the incident.

Obviously there is no way to justify the actions of the Tunisian suspected of murder – you just do not solve a dispute in front of a kebab shop with a knife (with the possible exception of self-defense). It is up to the court to clarify what happened. Should the kebab shop worker have become yet another foreigner brutally beaten up in Poland? Just another victim of a racist attack like those in Poznan, Wrocław, Łódź, Warsaw, Gdansk? The attacks keep occurring more and more often in just about every larger city in Poland: during the last year, the amount of racially or religiously motivated attacks rose by forty per cent.

Catholic fundamentalism on the rise
It is not difficult to connect the dots and realize the relation of these attacks to the politics of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), to the deluded raving of Jarosław Kaczyński about zones of Sharia law in Sweden and to the declared unwillingness to accept refugees from Syria. And, primarily, to Kaczyński’s constant flirting with nationalists, racists and preachers of violence – like the Member of Parliament Paweł Kukiz or the extremist right-wing movement Ruch narodowy. Those who incited the riots feel their violence is being officially blessed by higher echelons. Mariusz Błaszczak, the Minister of Interior, even went as far as to claim that the attitude of people trying to lynch the supposed perpetrator is “perfectly understandable”.

“We’ll kill you, fucking Muslim!” was what George heard while being beaten up and kicked on the ground in Poznan. In Warsaw, the waiter Karim was assaulted with shouts of “Go back home, terrorist!”. It is not even necessary to be a Muslim, it’s enough for Polish nationalists to think you look like one– in Wrześno a twenty-four-year-old man attacked a married couple from India, while in Krakow and Wrocław it was Sikhs who paid for wearing their traditional turbans.

So how about the victims of ethnic tensions on the Polish side? Until the 31st, there was not a single one. Daniel R. is the first. His death tops the wave of hatred driven by nationalists – both those in the streets and those wearing suits and sitting in Parliament’s benches. It is they who are responsible for this death; they are as guilty as the hand that wielded the knife. Finding evidence is as simple as taking a look at the Facebook profiles of extremists like Robert Winnicki, Marek Jakubiak or the already mentioned Kukiz, looking up their media appearances on the topic of Muslims – and reading the statements issued by their organizations regarding the Elk incident. The atmosphere in Poland grows ever thicker – and it is they who carry the blame.

Just who is the threat around here?
I remain convinced that should the incident have involved a Polish entrepreneur running a pizzeria who killed a thief attempting to rob him, the Internet would be abuzz with proud declarations of the right to defend one’s property. But in the Polish chain of social hierarchy, the white bandit seems to have a certain kind of immunity. The excluded excludes another in order to finally get above someone. It raises one’s dignity and it means one can get at least a bit of pride out of his ethnicity, if nothing else. According to the website elk24.pl, the youth rushed into the kebab shop and stole two drinks while his friend threw a firecracker inside. The attacker acted like a typical Polish football hooligan: with a firecracker in hand and a big mouth thanks to his buddy behind his back. But he got really unlucky.

The polish Muslims are a tiny minority, numbering less than thirty thousand. A lot of them are very well integrated – doctors, vets, businessmen or students – and what is important here, there is no religious fundamentalism among them. Which is more than can be said for the Catholic majority. The fairy tales about the islamization of Poland are pure fantasy. The real and much more dangerous threat on Polish streets is the one presented by white nationalists – and not just for the people with darker skin. For gays, lesbians, squatters, feminists and left-wingers of all kinds the encounters with members of this group often end up being rather brutal. The activities of the Polish extreme right are being documented in detail in the Brown Book published by the association “Nigdy Więcej” (Never Again).

Waiting for the real terrorists
There is one more – purely technical – factor to this. By condoning assaults on Muslims we are asking for an actual terrorist attack in our part of Europe – not committed by the common, honest immigrant but his polar opposite: a radicalized religious fundamentalist, produced by our own hatred. How long can we keep tormenting people in the name of our fearful delusions – and without any reprisal or consequence? How long can we keep insulting and attacking our visitors? Destroying their store fronts, spraying hateful inscriptions upon their doors, beating them up in the streets, robbing them? Elk had to call for reinforcements by the police and the army. 2017 is off to a pretty bad start.
Originally published on Krytyka Polityczna. Translated by Michal Chmela.
© Political Critique

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Poland: Poll shows Majority of Poles do not want refugees

3/1/2017- A total of 52 percent of Poles do not want Poland to accept refugees from war-torn countries, a poll by CBOS shows. Meanwhile, 40 percent of those polled believe Poland should accept refugees, but only temporarily, until they are able to go back home. Only four percent claim the Polish government should allow refugees to settle in Poland. Two thirds of those polled said Poland should not accept refugees coming to the EU from the Middle East and Africa, but 58 percent said Poland should accept refugees from the war-torn regions of eastern Ukraine. The authors of the poll said that it was conducted in the first half of December, before a Polish driver was shot and killed in recent terror attack at a Christmas market in Berlin.
© The News - Poland

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Slovakia: Police investigate far-right extremist Magát

The supporter of Adolf Hitler has had several incidents with police.

3/1/2017- The police are investigating statements made by far-right extremist Marián Magát, who openly supports Adolf Hitler and Anti-Semitism and denies the Holocaust, the Aktuality.sk website reported. “We can confirm that Marián M. is accused of Holocaust denial and approval of crimes committed by a political regime,” spokesperson for the Žilina police, Jana Balogová confirmed to Aktuality.sk. She failed however to specify which statements he is to be prosecuted for. Magát, who has organised protests against Islam and the EU, co-founded the extremist paramilitary group Vzdor Kysuce and ran for the far-right People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) in the March 2016 elections, said he does not deny the existence of death camps as they certainly were established. He also does not deny that people were dying there, as he said in a video published on a social network.

Magát has had several incidents with the police. Last summer, for example, he was invited to a hearing concerning the incident at one of the protests he organised, during which extremists tore the EU flag. The police also dealt with him for his pre-election banner on which he was threatening asocial people and political thieves with labour camps, Aktuality.sk wrote. In addition, the Czech police accused Magát of inciting hatred against a certain group of people in the summer of 2015 . He was detained during his anti-Semitic speech at the protest against immigrants that took place in Prague, the website reported. Magát also faces charges for unauthorised arms distribution.
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Slovakia bans train patrols by far-right party

1/1/2017- Train and railway station patrols set up by a far-right parliamentary party are illegal in Slovakia as of Sunday. The People’s Party Our Slovakia launched the unarmed patrols in April following a violent incident on a passenger train, claiming the state was unable to keep people safe. After efforts by the state railway company to ban the patrols had failed, lawmakers voted in October to outlaw them. The far-right populists entered Slovakia’s parliament in March 2016 with 14 lawmakers in the 150-strong chamber. Their leader, Marian Kotleba, is known for his support of the wartime Nazi puppet Slovak State. Kotleba’s party is popular with young voters, according to a study released in December by the Bratislava-based Institute for Public Affairs.
© The Associated Press

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Italy to step up deportations after migrant death protest

Italy on Wednesday pledged to step up deportations of migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected, following a riot in a northern Italian reception centre which ignited political debate.

4/1/2017- The country has been on the frontline of migrant arrivals from across the Mediterranean, and in recent years has struggled to provide accommodation for the thousands of newcomers. "We have saved many lives but we cannot accept rule-breaking. We need to speed up deportations," Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, the country's former interior minister, said in an interview with La Stampa daily. He was "working to tie up agreements which will reduce arrivals and prevent departures" from the coast of North Africa, he said after a record 181,000 people were rescued from the Mediterranean and brought to safety in Italy in 2016. Clashes broke out over living conditions in the Cona migrant centre in the Veneto region following the death of a 25-year-old woman of a blood clot on Monday.

An investigation has been opened into the death of the woman, named by Italian media as Ivory Coast native Sandrine Bakayoko, amid reports that workers at the centre waited several hours before calling an ambulance. During the protests, asylum seekers set fire to furniture and objects inside the facility, and cut electricity. Italian media reported that 25 staff members had to barricade themselves inside a room overnight, though no injuries were reported. A parliamentary delegation had visited the centre last November, where over 500 migrants live in the former military base.

The MPs presented a report to the Interior Ministry at the time denouncing "serious structural deficiencies", Republica reported. One member of the delegation, Nicola Fratoianni, condemned the poor living conditions including lack of water and light, and and said the centre had been a "ticking timebomb". There had been protests in early 2016, when a small group protested about poor hygiene and sanitary conditions. And a peaceful sit-in was held in August, to protest long waiting times for asylum decisions. Over 1,400 people were housed in the space originally intended for just 15. On Wednesday, 100 people were transferred from the Cona centre to Bologna, where they were destined for other facilities. They were met by a small group of Italian demonstrators holding banners reading: "Solidarity with those who revolt".

Political debate
The violence at the centre was condemned by politicians from all of Italy's main parties, with far-right leader Matteo Salvini taking advantage of the incident to call for support. "When I'm in government, there will be mass expulsions, centre closures, and the navy ships will send people back after saving them," the head of the Northern League wrote on Facebook. "Enough! 2017 will be the year of sending them back." MP Marietta Tidei of the Democratic Party responded to Salvini's comments, saying that while the violence at the centre should be condemned, Italians should reject "the reprehensible exploitation of Matteo Salvini, always ready to fuel a dangerous climate of migrant hatred". There were also renewed calls from organizations which work with migrants to restructure the reception centre system, because the so-called 'maxi-centres' are unmanageable.

According to the latest government figures, 175,485 migrants currently live on Italian territory, spread out between reception centres, 'hotspots', and migrant and refugee centres. A total of 14,669 of those live in temporary accommodation centres (CPA), of which there are seven in Italy, including the one in Cona. These centres are only designed for migrants to live in for a short period, however the average time spent there has increased throughout 2016, particularly since neighbouring France, Austria and Switzerland closed their Italian borders, making it impossible for many migrants to make their planned journeys on to northern Europe.
© The Local - Italy

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Italian policeman injured in far-right bookshop blast

1/1/2017- A police explosives expert was seriously injured on Sunday when a device placed outside a far-right bookshop in the central Italian city of Florence blew up, police said.
The officer suffered serious injuries to a hand and an eye, city police chief Alberto Initmi told RaiNews24 television. Police called in an explosives team after a patrol spotted a suspicious package outside the bookshop, which has ties to a far-right group called Casa Pound. As the experts approached the package, the blast occurred, said investigators cited by the Italian news agency AGI. The device had been fitted with a timer, they added. Casa Pound first emerged in Rome in 2003. The movement now has several hundred members, who stage protests against the European Union (EU) and immigration.
© The Local - Italy

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