German Far-Right in Trouble Trial of NPD Leader May Boost Chance of Party Ban
A German member of parliament has said the incitement charges brought this week against the leader of the far-right NPD party, Udo Voigt, could help efforts to get the party banned.
The chairman of the far-right National Democratic Party, Udo Voigt, is to go on trial for racial incitement.
Sebastian Edathy, a member of parliament for the center-left Social Democrats, said the trial was further evidence of the "inhuman politics and attitude" of the NPD.
He told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that the charges brought against Voigt and two other senior NPD members could be an important element in a new legal effort to have the party outlawed. The interior ministers of Germany's 16 states are due to meet in April to discuss such a bid.
A bid by the government and parliament to outlaw the NPD failed in 2003 when Germany's highest court threw out the case after it emerged that important witnesses for the prosecution -- including the NPD chief for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia -- worked as informants for Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that it couldn't ban a party whose policies might have been shaped in part by government agents.
The failure to ban the party was a major embarrassment to the government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and ended up strengthening the NPD, which as a legitimate political party gets state funding and has enjoyed growing membership in recent years. It has also made lawmakers wary of a second attempt to outlaw the party unless the case against it is completely watertight.
The Berlin public prosecutor's office said on Tuesday it was charging Voigt with incitement for publishing a leaflet in 2006 opposing the selection of a black player for the German national soccer team.
The prosecutor's office named Voigt and two other NPD members as having been responsible for the content of the leaflet. The other members are NPD spokesman Klaus Beier, who is also the chairman of the NPD regional party in the state of Brandenburg, and Frank Schwerdt, who leads the party in the eastern state of Thuringia.
The NPD has called the charges absurd. "The charge document makes one thing clear: any criticism of over-immigration in Germany and of multi-cultural society is being turned into a crime. The trial has major political significance," Schwerdt said in a statement posted on the NPD's Web site.