In a development likely to reignite debate in Germany about banning the National Democratic Party (NPD), police detained a man Wednesday who is believed to be a former member of the far-right party on suspicion of aiding the murderous neo-Nazi terror group known as the Zwickau cell.
Carsten S. was a top official in the party's chapter in the eastern German city of Jena in 1999. The suspect also reportedly belonged to the party's executive committee for the state of Thuringia, in addition to acting as the state representative on the national board for the NPD's youth organization, the Junge Nationaldemokraten, or Young National Democrats.
Members of Germany's elite GSG 9 counterterrorism unit arrested the 31-year-old in Düsseldorf on suspicion that he provided a gun and ammunition to the Zwickau terror cell, which is thought to have murdered at least 10 people since 2000. Their alleged victims were nine small business owners of Turkish and Greek origin, along with a policewoman. The suspect stands accused of abetting six murders and an attempted murder, and is currently being held on remand.
Second NPD Link
The fifth suspect arrested in connection with the Zwickau cell, Carsten S., is also the second former NPD official who is believed to have been connected with the group. Ralf Wohlleben, a former long-time functionary within the Thuringia NPD, was arrested in November. The latest NPD connection to the case is now likely to reignite pressure to ban the right-wing extremist party.
A first attempt to outlaw the party failed in the Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe in 2003, but as the Zwickau cell case continues to unfold, a number of national and regional politicians have called for renewed efforts. The NPD, meanwhile, has distanced itself from the case and such violence in general, calling the terrorist cell members "crazy criminals" and even going as far as claiming they were fabricated by domestic intelligence to "establish a basis for banning the unwanted national opposition."
The latest arrest in the case, and the suspect's links to the NPD, is also likely to ruffle feathers among the far-left Left Party, which was recently outraged to find that many of its parliamentarians were under observation by the domestic intelligence service. They and other opposition politicians have argued that efforts should be focused on the NPD. They have also expressed concerns about the "proportionality" of the measures, given a number of embarrassing blunders in the investigation of the Zwickau cell.
-- kla, with wire reports
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