World News

GREECE | Rise of far right in Greece worries mainstream

Monday, 30 April 2012, 23:08 | Source: San Jose Mercury News |

Reeling from a vicious financial crisis that has cost them pensions and jobs, Greeks have been turning away in droves from the mainstream politicians they feel have let them down. Another political force is trying to tap the void, with blunt promises to "clean up" the country.

It's one that could see Europe's most extreme far right deputies take up seats in Greece's Parliament in crucial May 6 elections.

Black-clad Golden Dawn members have been storming across the campaign trail across Greece, stopping to chat at cafes and shops, handing out fliers promising security in crime-ridden neighborhoods—and vowing to kick out immigrants.Greece's borders, they say, must be sealed with land mines to stop illegal crossing into a country that became the entry point for 90 percent of the European Union's illegal migrants. Authorities estimate there are about 1 million migrants living in this country of 11 million.

Appealing to populist sentiment, Golden Dawn has been gathering donations of food and clothing to deliver to the needy while pledging to make politicians accountable for the crisis. Ordinary Greeks are struggling under tough conditions demanded for rescue loan deals that have pushed the country into a fifth year of recession.

"Golden Dawn stands against this corrupt system of power. All those who are responsible for the waste of public money must go to jail. That is our priority," said Ilias Kasidiaris, a 31-year-old party member who served in the Greek army's special forces.

Around him, the party offices in downtown Athens were a hive of activity, with newcomers dropping in and the membership list growing by the day. In the back, T-shirts and caps are for sale marked with the party logo, taken from the ancient Greek meander, a motif resembling the swastika and often seen on ancient mosaics, carvings and wall paintings.

Firmly on the fringe of the right since it first appeared 20 years ago,

Golden Dawn garnered a meager 0.23 percent in the 2009 elections. Now, it looks set to easily win more than the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament, with recent opinion polls showing support at about 5 percent.

The party has a barely veiled sinister side, and has been blamed for vicious attacks on immigrants. Members skirt questions about violence, saying they have no knowledge of such incidents.

"We don't do anything, we protect the Greeks," said Epaminondas Anyfantis, a mild-mannered, 59-year-old candidate who looks the antithesis of many of the young, muscled and shaven-headed members. "Now, if in protecting the Greeks, a foreigner might get a slap or a kick or something, I think that's in the framework of the protection of the Greeks. ... Because unfortunately the Greeks at the moment have come to the point of asking Golden Dawn for protection."

With parts of central Athens turning into ghetto-like neighborhoods where drug users inject openly and muggings and burglaries are regular events, many have lost confidence in the police.

Giorgos Vardzis, who lives in the small seaside town of Artemida, has taken down the numbers of Golden Dawn members in case of emergencies."Who else should I call, the police? ... When you ask for help from the police because you're being killed, you have to be killed first, and then the police will come," he said.

Immigrants are increasingly concerned. "We are worried very much," said Javed Aslam, the head of the Pakistani community in Greece, during a recent anti-racist demonstration. "This is very bad. You can imagine one political party with weapons, with knives, they are going out in the roads, and this is politics? This is not politics!"

Led by Nikolas Mihaloliakos, who won a seat on the Athens city council in 2010 local elections and shocked Greeks by delivering a fascist salute in his first appearance there, Golden Dawn rejects the neo-Nazi label, pointing out that many of their fathers fought the Germans during the Nazi occupation of Greece. "We are Greek nationalists. Nothing more and nothing less than that," said Kasidiaris.

But they don't hide their admiration for many of Hitler's policies, saying he eliminated unemployment in Germany. Golden Dawn members often give fascist salutes at marches and rallies featuring nationalist slogans and burning torches, pictures of which adorn walls in party offices.

And they are tapping into a deep well of discontent with the parties that have dominated Greek politics for decades, conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK.

"Our children have no jobs. They cut my husband's pension," said Evlambia Spantidaki, sitting on the porch of a friend's house in Artemida. "For a while I voted New Democracy. I changed and voted for PASOK. But now nothing, none of them." This year, her vote will go to Golden Dawn.

"All those people who are following us at the moment, let's be realistic ... they didn't suddenly become nationalists from one minute to the next," said Giorgos Germenis, a member of the party's political council responsible for ideology. He is running as a Golden Dawn candidate in the wider Athens area. "It is a vote of protest. They find confidence in the face of Golden Dawn, that it will enter Parliament and really shake up the system."

With none of its more than 220 candidates, bar its leader, a recognized politician, the party also plays to voters disillusioned with the political elite.

"We will never become politicians. We are soldiers and we will die soldiers," said Anyfantis. "We are soldiers fighting for a cause."

In a country that suffered famine under Nazi occupation and saw arbitrary detentions and torture under the 1967-74 military dictatorship, the party's growing popularity has alarmed many.

"I have been surprised and very worried by the explosion in the opinion polls of Golden Dawn, the most extreme form of the extreme right," Athens University political science professor Ilias Nicolacopoulos said shortly after elections were declared in mid-April.

So the mainstream has been scrambling to win back the right-wing vote, putting immigration at the top of the agenda. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis has pledged to build detention centers for 30,000 illegal immigrants by 2014, with the first one to open within days. Police have raided migrant apartments, and legislation now allows authorities to force migrants to have health checks and medical treatment.

Immigrant groups say there has been a spike in racist violence recently.

"There is a worrying trend of racist attacks directed against non-EU foreigners in Greece," said Ketty Kehagioglou, UNHCR spokeswoman in Athens. "In times of instability it is always easy to look for scapegoats and extremist groups take advantage of this situation."

In an Athens hospital ward, Pakistani migrant Mohammad lies propped up on a bed, his right arm in a cast, stitches in the back of his head, his nose broken—the result of a severe beating one recent Sunday night by a group of about 25 men armed with wooden bats and iron rods, he said.

Across town in a small one-bedroom flat, his friend Ahmad is recovering from head and hand injuries from the same attack.

"They just asked 'what's your country?' and then they start beating us. ... With hands and wood and the iron rod," Ahmad said. Neither had spoken to the police about the incident. Fearing reprisals, they asked for only their first names to be used.

For their part, Golden Dawn seem confident of taking up parliamentary seats after May 6—even if it is on a protest vote. "That is why the whole system is fighting us," said Anyfantis. "Because they are afraid that when we get into Parliament, the Greek people will understand that we are neither a gang, nor Nazis, nor children of Hitler. ... We are just Greek patriots, we love our country. We are prepared even to sacrifice ourselves for our beliefs, for the country, for its people."

CZECH REPUBLIC | Czech extremists invite German nazis to tomorrow's 1 May demo in Prague

Monday, 30 April 2012, 22:55 | Source: |

The Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) has invited two leading German neo-Nazis to address the demonstration it has convened for tomorrow, 1 May, in Prague. The neo-Nazis' annual 1 May party will be spiced up this year by some truly "special guests". A veteran of the German scene who earned his notoriety by giving the Nazi salute when being sworn in at the Munich town hall and the leader of the neo-Nazis from Upper Palatinate will be on display.

One of these guests is Karl Richter, the German National Democratic Party (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands - NPD) Vice-Chair who has been active on the neo-Nazi scene since the 1980s. He has made no secret of his admiration for Hitler's Third Reich during his long career and has publicly lobbied against anti-fascists, ethnic minorities, migrants, and sexual minorities. An illustrative episode from his work was his giving of the Nazi salute at the Munich town hall while taking the oath to become a city councilor. He was elected to the city council in 2008 on the ticket of the "Bürgerinitiative Ausländerstopp"(the "Stop Foreigners" civic association) which won 1. 4 % of the vote.

The other representative of the German neo-Nazis will be Simon Preisinger, the district chair of the NPD for Tirschenreuth and Beirat (Oberpfalz - Upper Palatinate). He leads the neo-Nazi group Freies Netz Süd ("Free Network South" - FNS) and has strong ties to the structures that arose after the collapse of the Czech neo-Nazi National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) in the Karlovy Vary region. Lately he has also established ties with the NO organization in the Krušné hory area, which is led by current DSSS activist Lukáš Stoupa, a man who has previously been convicted of committing a brutal assault on a male Romani minor.

Several years ago, the chair of the NPD, Udo Voigt, expressed doubt as to the extent of the murders of Jewish people committed during WWII and demanded the return of the territories Germany lost after 1945, including the Czech Sudetenland, which had been awarded to Hitler's German Reich by the Munich Agreement. Some members and sympathizers of the NPD have been tried by German courts for making revisionist declarations and speeches that border on Holocaust denial. The DSSS previously said it has concluded a manifesto on cooperation with the NPD.

For more detailed information on both of the neo-Nazis coming to Prague, please see the recently published article on the website (in Czech only), "1 May with the German neo-Nazis" (at

CZECH REPUBLIC | Five Czechs convicted of far-right extremism

Saturday, 28 April 2012, 16:24 | Source:ČTK |

An appeals court in Tabor has meted out four suspended three-year sentences and one prison sentence of 3.5 years to Czech extremists for having contributed to the public Internet discussion of the neo-Nazi movement White Justice.

According to the indictment, they promoted a movement that seeks the suppressing of rights and freedoms and supported the idea of the neo-Nazi movement.

The sentence has taken immediate effect.

Two of the five defendants were the administrators of the portal White Justice and had access to the content of the pages.

The court ruled that one of them had collected photos of ideological opponents of White Justice.

"The group's criminal activity is highly dangerous to society," state attorney Alena Pichova said.

"Undoubtedly, the defendants promoted ethnic, racial and especially religious hatred," Petr Cerny, chairman of the Tabor court panel, said.

Cerny said instructions to manufacture weapons and explosives had appeared on the web page of White Justice.

"Besides, one of the defendants called for a holy racial war," he added.

The group was involved in the crime mainly during 2008, Cerny said.

The police uncovered the group in autumn 2009.

The first instance court mostly meted out suspended sentences and community work to the defendants.

Only one of them received 20 months in prison.

In autumn 2009, the police Squad for Uncovering Organised crime (UOOZ) detained 12 persons.

UOOZ head Robert Slachta said members of the ultra rightist group had been trained to carry out terrorist attacks on vital targets.

"They targeted industrial companies, power plants and transformers," the police said.

Career soldier Lukas Sedlacek allegedly helped establish the ultra rightist militant group White Justice.

He reportedly trained about 30 people in training camps, having taught them close combat techniques.

Sedlacek, who is not among the defendants, was discharged from the military in autumn 2009.

DENMARK | Hedegaard walks free in racism case

Saturday, 28 April 2012, 16:00 | Source: Hope not hate |

From Tobias Alm in Copenhagen

Lars Hedegaard, chairman of the Islamophobic Danish Free Press Society, has incredibly escaped conviction on charges of making public racist statements. In 2009, he had claimed in interview: “Muslims rape their own children…You hear that all the time…In Muslim families girls get raped by their uncles, cousins and fathers.” After hearing the evidence, however, the Danish High Court concluded that because Hedegaard had not intended his remarks to become public, having made them at a private party, he could not be convicted of racism.

Hedegaard has not hesitated to use the abortive trial against him to profile himself even more as the man who tells the “forbidden truth” about Muslims in Denmark. Hedegaard founded his Free Press Society in 2004 supposedly to protect the right of free speech. Today, though, the organisation is an important part of Denmark’s highly active and discriminatory anti-Muslim milieu and belongs to the international constellation of Islamophobic pressure and propaganda groups.

GERMANY | German police swoop on right-wing extremists

Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 14:34 | Source: Deutsche Welle |

Police and state prosecutors say they have raided 20 residences and offices belonging to right-wing extremists in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, alledging 'significant crimes' including violence.

Police in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia conducted coordinated raids on alleged right-wing extremists early Wednesday, including the offices of a regional far-right political party.

Authorities searched 20 apartments and offices belonging to people linked to the far-right scene in the cities of Dusseldorf, Essen, Wuppertal and the small town of Radevormwald, reportedly making three arrests. State prosecutors and police in Cologne announced the raids.

A spokesman said the searches were focused on leaders of a group called Freundeskreis Rade (Rade Circle of Friends), an allegedly neo-Nazi group that prosecutors say has been attempting to build a criminal network.

Prosecutors said the group was suspected of "significant crimes" including the use of violence.

The raids also included a search of the offices of the small far-right party Pro NRW in Radevormwald. The party is fielding a slate of candidates in the upcoming state elections next month and is running on an anti-Islam platform.

The criminal potential of the far-right in Germany has been in the spotlight since authorities last year uncovered a neo-Nazi cell suspected of at least 10 murders and multiple bank robberies. The cell was able to evade authorities for more than a decade.

CZECH REPUBLIC | Police prevent neo-Nazis from attacking Romani residents in Břeclav

Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 14:31 | Source: |

Convening shortly after noon on Saturday, approximately 2 000 people set out from the Břeclav train station to express support for a 15-year-old boy who was brutally beaten last weekend by three allegedly Romani men. One of the conveners of the event was the right-wing extremist Workers' Youth (Dělnická mláde× - DM), some of whose members are neo-Nazi sympathizers.

Immediately after the start of the march, the DM and the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) seized the initiative to transform it into an anti-Romani event. The crowd then divided into two groups on the square, one listening to DSSS leader Vandas and the other engaging in discussion with Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý.

Demonstrators started assembling just after noon in front of the building of the main train station in Břeclav. At 13:00 they set out on a march to T.G.M. square and back. The event was scheduled to end at 15:00.

The original plan was to prevent demonstrators from accessing Romani neighborhoods in the town. The public spaces on two squares and 11 streets were reserved by the pro-Romani initiative Hate is No Solution (Nenávist není řešení). Together with Břeclav residents who disagreed with the neo-Nazi march, the initiative held an alternative event, a common lunch for all citizens of Břeclav without prejudice, on the lawn in front of the elementary school at Sovadinova 3.


16:28 - The situation in Břeclav is completely calm. Our on-line reporting is over. Thank you for your attention, we will report more information in an article summarizing today's events.

16:02 - Volunteers from the IQ Roma servis association have been in the Romani locality all afternoon. "Tensions between the majority population and Romani people here are palpable. Many various groups are marching around the town right now. One small group of people was here, but they seemed more like drunks to me. They were carrying open beer bottles, some even had to be carried themselves. The police handled it and have the situation under control, it's quiet here. IQ Roma servis and the Břeclav Roma hope the perpetrator of last weekend's incident will be apprehended as soon as possible. Events like this one today just escalate tensions further," Wail Khazal of IQ Roma servis told news server

15:30 - A rambling group of people is now in Riegrova street. According to our information they are not radicals, but local youths who have been fortifying themselves with alcohol.

15:21 - The police anti-conflict team is convincing the neo-Nazis in Riegrova street to disperse.

15:19 - Czech media outlets are reporting that the organization of the demonstration was completely chaotic.

15:15 - The organizers of Sunday's shared lunch in front of the elementary school have now arrived in the Romani locality in order to support the residents. They have unfurled their banners inside one apartment building.

15:12 - News server is reporting that as many as 3 000 people participated in the march to support the injured boy. "However, the radicals experienced a fiasco, as no one was interested in the speech by the head of the Workers' Social Justice Party, Tomáš Vandas," writes the news server, referring to the fact that the crowd on the square divided into two parts.

15:06 - The neo-Nazis are verbally assaulting Romani people with racist insults. Cries of "Gypsies to the gas chambers" and similar slogans can be heard.

14:59 - Our correspondent reports that the riot police, without using force, have pushed the neo-Nazis away from the vicinity of the buildings occupied by Romani residents in Břeclav. Police have now entrenched themselves at the intersection of Husova and Riegrova streets.

14:53 - Oxana Zhyvachivska, the mother of the injured boy, has spoken to people on the town square in front of the town hall. "Thank you for coming out in such numbers," she said.

14:47 - The crowd of neo-Nazis in Riegrova street, which is predominantly inhabited by Romani people, has grown by about 100. Police are calling on the neo-Nazis to disperse. Riot police are slowly moving against the crowd.

14:39 - News server reports that the former Mayor of Břeclav, Dymo Piškula, has suggested that the state should force every Romani person to work.

14:36 - A group of about 30 neo-Nazis has separated itself from those returning to the train station and entered a street in the Romani neighborhood. The riot police are forming themselves into ranks to prevent them from attacking local Romani residents.

14:34 - The demonstrators leaving the square are now verbally assaulting the organizers of the lunch in front of the elementary school in Sovadinova street.

14:32 - News server reports that the organization of the protest march has failed. The crowd on the square is now chanting anti-Romani slogans.

14:22 - Some residents of Břeclav are remaining on the square to discuss the situation with the mayor. The number of participants is falling as people go home.

14:16 - Our correspondent on the scene reports that after a small group of about 15 neo-Nazis tried to get into Romani-inhabited buildings, a riot police van immediately arrived in the locality.

14:01 - The crowd on the square has divided itself into two groups. The larger group is standing with Mayor Oldřich Ryšavý in front of the town hall. The other group of demonstrators is standing near Tomáš Vandas and listening to his speech, during which people in the crowd are shouting harsh racist insults about Roma. Vandas has also attacked the mayor. "He's a yellow-belly afraid for his seat. My fingers are crossed for you, throw out your mayor," Vandas told his supporters.

13:55 Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý has repeated his request for residents to distance themselves from the right-wing extremists. The crowd has whistled him down. The mayor also told the crowd that police patrols in the town will be reinforced.

13:54 - The local Břeclavský deník has quoted Jan Neugebauer, the organizer of the alternative Sunday lunch in support of the beaten boy, as saying: "We are against racism, we don't want to provoke the Břeclav residents, and we do not like how the Workers' Youth has exploited today's event."

13:52 - South Moravian Governor Michal Hašek has been on the scene since morning. Prior to the start of the march, he told the Czech Press Agency that he firmly believed Břeclav residents would not be incited to displays of anti-Romani sentiment during the march. Unfortunately, the residents of Břeclav never heard that statement.

13:47 - The right-wing extremists are continuing to take advantage of the march in support of the injured boy to perform political agitation and collect signatures in support of the presidential candidacy of their leader, Tomáš Vandas.

13:38 - Demonstrators on T.G.M. square want Mayor of Břeclav Oldřich Ryšavý to speak.

13:34 - Small groups of neo-Nazis are wandering around Břeclav. Some are driving through the Romani localities. Our correspondent on the scene says these isolated, violent neo-Nazis pose a threat to Romani residents. The police helicopter has stopped monitoring the square and is monitoring the situation elsewhere.

13:31 - The local Břeclavský deník reports that some of the people on the square do not know the DM and DSSS are taking advantage of the situation. "I live in Břeclav, I heard about the attack, and I joined to express my support for the idea that people can't just do whatever they like here, whether the assailants were Romani or not," said resident Jaroslav Jeřábek. He said he had no idea the march had been convened by the DM.

13:26 - The situation on the square is unpredictable. DSSS leader Tomáš Vandas wanted to make a speech, but a large portion of the demonstrators ignored him and moved away, taking up positions in front of the town hall, where they are discussing the situation with the mayor. Vandas has tried to speak to the crowd, but the original organizers of the march, the friends of the beaten boy, don't want him to speak, our correspondent on the scene reports.

13:20 - News server reports that prior to the march, police officers found loose paving stones stashed away along the announced route.

13:16 - The march, led by the neo-Nazis, has made it to T.G.M. square.

13:11 - Banners are being carried that read: "Gypsies, you've fucked up", "Let's stop gypsy terror", and "While the town hall sleeps, the gypsy murders".

13:08 - The neo-Nazis are chanting: "Where are those whores?"

13:07 - The local Břeclavský deník reports that police officers in front of the train station have determined that one of the neo-Nazis is carrying a tonfa. People are starting to chant the racist slogan "We want a white Bohemia" and to whistle.

13:04 - The march has transformed from one in support of the beaten boy to a racist march against Romani people. People are carrying signs reading: "How nice it is when no gypsies are in town", "Only in Bohemia is the nation terrorized by an ethnic minority". Some are chanting: "We don't want them here!"

13:03 - The local organizers of the march have managed to halt some of the demonstrators. Only right-wing radicals are heading to the town square.

13:02 - The right-wing radicals are ignoring the local organizers and are leading the march through the town. The local organizers are doing their best to stop participants from marching with the DM and DSSS, but the radicals are continuing to escalate the situation and doing their best to provoke people to join the anti-Romani protest.

12:58 - Petra Vedrová, spokesperson for the South Moravian Regional Police, told the Mediafax press agency that "We estimate the number of marchers at 2 000 people for the time being, of whom about 150 are radicals."

12:52 - The number of marchers is rapidly rising. News server reports 2 000 people standing in front of the train station. Some are starting to chant anti-Romani slogans.

12:44 - The predominantly Romani localities of Břeclav are completely calm.

12:37 - About 1 000 people are standing in front of the train station. Our correspondent says the crowd includes both local residents and right-wing radicals. People are chanting and whistling.

12:32 - Police have not yet noted any incidents. "Most people are mobbing the train station, but we have not yet noted rioting or anything like that," the local Břeclavský deník reports South Moravian Regional Police spokesperson Petra Vedrová as saying.

12:29 The correspondent for news server reports that a group of about 20 locals has just verbally assaulted him because of his skin color. "Luckily they just attacked me verbally," he reports.

12:26 - About 30 people are on the lawn in front of the elementary school in Sovadinova street holding a protest against neo-Nazis in Břeclav and in support of the beaten boy. They are having lunch together and holding banners that read "Hate is No Solution", "Stop Nazis" and "Only three people are guilty".

12:18 - The DSSS has taken advantage of the march in support of the beaten boy to distribute political propaganda and gather signatures for the candidacy of Tomáš Vandas for President of the Czech Republic.

12:13 - The first demonstrators are meeting up at the train station. The leader of the DSSS, Tomáš Vandas, can be seen standing in front of the vestibule.

10:40 - In the Romani localities of Břeclav there is total calm, nothing is happening. "Many police officers are patrolling Břeclav. Vans with riot police in them are driving around, the police helicopter just flew by a moment ago," the correspondent reports from the scene.

FRANCE | France, Racism and Marine Le Pen

Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 14:16 | Source:spearsworld-wire |

A Comment by Sophie McBain

That Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party and power-suited reactionary, should win one in five votes is a terrible indictment of French politics today. Marine is altogether more polished, both physically and politically, than her bulldog father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front, but her underlying messages are just as ugly: her pledge to reduce immigration to 5 per cent of current levels is both unrealistic and based on racist ideas of what it means to be French.

And yet her success is as much down to the shameful political manoeuvring of Sarkozy as her undeniable political skill. In seeking to outflank Marine, Sarkozy has shifted political debate rightwards and helped foster the kind of atmosphere where racist pronouncements on preserving French identity have gained a degree of political acceptability.

Policies like the burka ban and prohibition on outdoor prayers (which disproportionately affected Muslims) served no other purpose than to win votes from a populace who feel threatened by Islam. While only a small minority are directly affected by the legislation (it is estimated that only a couple of hundred women in France wear the burka), it sends out a deeply harmful message to ordinary Muslims. The deportation of Roma from France showed a similarly shocking willingness on the part of government to play to voters’ unfounded prejudice and to discriminate against minorities.

Of course elected leaders have to engage with the concerns of the populace, but this doesn’t mean that they should pander to general ignorance and unfounded fears. I hope the French presidential election will serve as a reminder to British politicians of the dangers of seeking to gain ground from the far right.

In Britain, as in the rest of Europe, high unemployment, austerity, rapid social change and a fear of terrorism may all contribute to a rise in the popularity of the far-right, with its comfortable black-and-white views on immigration and Islam. That means it is more important than ever that the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems refuse to engage with the racist fringe of British politics, and are robust in their defence of Britain as a multicultural, pluralist, tolerant society.

If Marine Le Pen’s considerable share of the French vote is to serve any good purpose, it is as a reminder to others of the danger of courting the far right.

GREECE | Golden Dawn: Amid The Crisis, Greece’s Old Fascists Get A New Face

Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 14:05 | Source: |

“The touch of the cat” is the name of the admittedly effective tactic followed by Greece’s most extremist party, the Golden Dawn. Just like the cats detect their pray walking on their toes, Golden Dawn quietly observes Greek voters becoming more and more vulnerable, ready to attack them.

Founded in the early 1980s by backers of the junta that governed Greece from 1967 to 1974, Golden Dawn has always embraced a neo-Nazi ideology. Its symbol looks like the swastika, and copies of “Mein Kampf” and books on the racial superiority of the Greeks are on prominent display in its Athens headquarters. In the past, not many Greeks took Golden Dawn seriously, but this time polls indicate that in the national elections scheduled for May 6, Golden Dawn may surpass the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament. But even if Golden Dawn fails to enter Parliament, it has already had an impact on the broader political debate. In response to the fears over immigration and rising crime, Greece’s two leading parties — the Socialist Party and the center-right New Democracy Party — have also tapped into nationalist sentiment and are tacking hard right in a campaign in which immigration has become as central as the economy.

Golden Dawn’s prey – desperate, cash-stripped Greek voters – don’t even realize what has changed. But for some reason, Golden Dawn suddenly appears “a bit more normal” than what it used to be. Their ballots include ordinary, low key people, not the usual hard core fascists. And instead of talking about Nazi fascism, Golden Dawn candidates talk about the ordinary people and their daily sufferings due to the crisis. They are worried about the cuts in pensions and salaries, about the schools and the hospitals that are being merged. Michalioliakos is determined to transform his party from a collection of street fighters into a political party.

“This is our party’s program, for a clean Greece, only for Greeks, a safe Greece,” says Ilias Panagiotaros, the group’s spokesman and a candidate for office.

In the pre-crisis times, the majority of Greeks would make fun of him. Yet those living in downtown Athens have been so badly hit by the crime coming from illegal immigrants that they don’t make fun of him.

Almost all European far-right parties have come up with the same toxic cocktail. The Dutch MP Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigrant Freedom party, has compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampf. In Tel Aviv in 2010, he declared that “Islam threatens not only Israel, Islam threatens the whole world. If Jerusalem falls today, Athens and Rome, Amsterdam and Paris will fall tomorrow.”

Thanks to the polls, Golden Dawn now appears much more confident. Right after he realized there is a chance he would enter the Greek parliament, Michalioliakos reinvented his party’s image, disassociated himself and almost denied his extremist past, the Nazi symbols, the praise to Hitler and stopped hunting immigrants around St. Paneleimonas square in central Athens (he’s probably going to continue his hobby after the elections).

Those who know say that Michalioliakos used all his talent and manipulating strategies, and very skillfully prepared the ballots so that he could mislead the voters who won’t even realize what exactly they’re voting for. So, while everyone waited after continuous information that not much would change in Golden Dawn’s ballots, and the majority of candidates would mostly be retired army officers, ultimately only a handful were actually included. Instead of including the usual fascist suspects, Michalioliakos decided to open the doors to unsuspected Athenians, who have no clue about his party’s past. The majority of his candidates have no party activity, no fascist past. They are taxi drivers, fishermen, security guards, farmers, bank employees a couple of journalists and municipal staff. And for those left that have some sort of a blurry past, he refuses to answer as to how they ended up in the ballots. “I do not know all the candidates, or how they ended up being included in the lists,” he says.

Golden Dawn has been running in national elections since 1994 with no luck. In 2010 however, in the beginning of the crisis, its leader Nikos Michaloliakos was elected to the Athens City Council. In one of his interviews, Michaloliakos called the group “national socialists” and said the party’s main concern was the crime and the financial crisis. But opportunistic words of caring for Greeks cannot disguise the Greek far right’s toxic rhetoric of hatred.

What Michalioliakos did is pretty clear. He grabbed the opportunity, and in the wildest capitalist crisis Greece has ever experienced, with Greeks killing themselves as they never did before, and children fainting out of starvation at schools, he smelled the desperation, camouflaged himself and his party and presents himself as the new savior. In fact, Michalioliakos’ group has been campaigning on the streets, something that PASOK and ND politicians have avoided for fear of angry reactions by voters who blame them for Greece’s economic collapse.

Experts argue the party is blooming where the Greek state seems absent, the most dangerous sign of how the economic downfall has strengthened extremist groups while destroying the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun paralleling to Weimar Germany.

Golden Dawn is a paradox in itself. While it is clearly still comfortable with neo-Nazi ideology, it has also started developing a Greek nationalist sentiment, which is now anti-German. “We hate Germany, because it is still the leader of the banksters and the European Union,” Michaloliakos, said, using a derogatory term for bankers. Michalioliakos fiercely opposes Greece’s agreement with its foreign lenders and says that the country’s political leadership is too beholden to “international bankers.”

Both the socialists and the conservatives warn of the dangers of extremism. Evangelos Venizelos, who is running in the national elections as Socialist Party leader, warned that “Parliament cannot become a place for those nostalgic for fascism and Nazism.” Golden Dawn is nostalgic for both. And sadly, given the current polls, the Greek parliament will provide a place for Michalioliakos and his nostalgic fascists, just like the French did with Ms Lepen who appears to be the big winner in the French elections. From Greece to France far right parties capitalise on immigration and eurozone fears. They have the perfect recipe: from one side they are deeply conservative and talk about the old, white, illiberal, homogeneous nation states of Europe with no immigrants. On the other side they tend to be anything but right wing. They are further to the left of European social democracy in supporting generous welfare states, high salaries,pensions, early retirement ages. And as the eurozone crisis drags on and things get worse and worse for ordinary people, the far right will be getting higher and higher percentages. One thing is clear: the situation with sundry extremists, racists, neo-Nazis, or simply deep conservatives in Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Greece, France and so on should give Brussels some food for thought.

RUSSIA | ‘Zenit most racist team in Russia’

Wednesday, 25 April 2012, 13:54 | Source: RT |

The reigning Russian Premier League champions Zenit St. Petersburg are “the most racist team” in the country. That is according to former CSKA Brazilian star Vagner Love, who recalls his voyages to the Petrovsky Stadium as a nightmare.

The 27-year-old Flamengo forward faced the same kind of treatment earlier this month at a Copa Liberatadores match at Ecuadorian club Emelev. Though he says it did not hurt him at all because he had become hardened to it in the Russian northern capital.

"In Russia similar things happened two or three times," Vagner Love told the Brazilian daily Globo Esporte. "It was always during the matches against Zenit, which is the most racist team in Russia. … It's their way."

Coincidence it might be, but Zenit St. Petersburg remain the only leading football club in Russia in which an African or Latin American has never played. Their former coach Dick Advocaat once admitted that the club’s core fans prevented him from signing players based on their skin color.

"Unfortunately, some players can't get over it, but, thank God, I never had a problem," Vagner Love added. "It all went in one ear and out the other. In such situations you should never get angry, or say or do anything. Life goes on and you come on the pitch to play."

During his seven spectacular years in Russia, Love became all-time top foreign scorer in the Russian Premier League, with 117 goals in 244 matches.

The problem of racism in Russian football has been in focus after the country was awarded the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Anzhi's Roberto Carlos and Christopher Samba have both been victims of mean banana-throwing episodes over the last year. While Spartak Moscow forward Emmanuel Emenike gave a finger to Dynamo Moscow fans after being steadily provoked to do so. The gesture cost the Nigerian a $17,000 fine, which Spartak president Leonid Fedun called a “shameful ruling” as the football authorities apparently penalized the wrong side of the conflict.

FRANCE | The vote for Marine Le Pen - a dangerous development

Monday, 23 April 2012, 14:35 |

By Graeme Atkinson

The record vote for right-wing extremist Front National (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s first round of the French presidential elections continues to be hyped up to 20% by chunks of an international media looking for a sensation and, unfortunately, generating rather more heat than light.

In fact, according to French Interior Ministry figures – quoted in the internationally respected French daily Le Monde – Mme Le Pen got 17.9, just a shade above 1% more than the tally that was garnered by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2002 and which parachuted him into the second round run off with incumbent Jacques Chirac. In that subsequent ballot, Le Pen was hammered by Chirac.

Despite that, however, his lawyer daughter’s vote on Sunday emphatically signals a dangerous and worrying movement in the mood of the French electorate, especially young voters, fed up to the teeth with the posturing of Nicolas Sarkozy and with his attempts to rip France’s public sector and welfare system to pieces, attacking even his erstwhile middle-class electoral base.

For the moment, at least part of the second round outcome will now depend on where – if she makes a recommendation – Le Pen’s vote will go. The dust has not settled and a number of things remain to be seen. In particular, it will be important to see how Le Pen’s party fares in the forthcoming French parliamentary elections, set for 10 and 17 June.

That vote for the 577-seat National Assembly will make possible a better assessment of how much of the vote for Le Pen is a “hard” vote and how much is anti-Sarkozy protest and/or an expression of disgruntlement and frustration with politicians in general.

Hope not Hate magazine will be producing an analysis of the first round result by leading French political scientist Jean-Yves Camus in its latest, May 2012, edition.

It will be a “must read” for those wanting a clear explanation of the Le Pen vote.

GREECE | Nazi followers attack PASOK deputy

Saturday, 21 April 2012, 22:18 | Source: |

ASOK deputy Petros Efthymiou was at the receiving end of an attack by a number of the neo-nazi Chrysi Avgi party at Maroussi in northern Athens on Saturday afternoon.

Some 100 men chanted slogans against all politicians and abused Efthymiou, who was holding an election rally at the site, before hurling bottles of water and cups of coffee at him amongst other things. Noone was injured.

Interestingly, the attack took place in front of two foreign television crews, including one from the BBC, that were filming reports on the rise of neo-nazism in Greece.

All parliamentary parties condemned the attack, highlighting its coincidence with the anniversary of the coup d’etat 45 years ago that started the military junta of 1967-74.

Chrysi Avgi leader Nikos Michaloliakos played down the incident saying on camera that the weather was warm enough and a shower with water can't have hurt Efthymiou.

AUSTRIA | Vienna removing antisemite's name from avenue

Friday, 20 April 2012, 17:16 | Source: |

The name of a Vienna mayor known for his anti-Semitic views will be removed from a section of Vienna's posh Ring avenue, an official announced Thursday, in a change hailed by Jewish representatives but denounced by Austria's rightist party.

The section now called Dr. Karl-Lueger-Ring will be renamed Universitaetsring (University Ring) for the university that is located on that section of the avenue circling the inner city, the official said

Lueger was mayor for 13 years, starting in 1897. While in office, he expanded Vienna's pipeline network supplying the city with alpine spring water, established a public transport system and strengthened social welfare services. But he also openly espoused anti-Semitic sentiments. Adolf Hitler, who lived in Vienna for part of Lueger's tenure, saw him as an inspiration for his hatred of Jews.

Lueger nonetheless had Jewish friends and once famously declared, "I decide who is a Jew." His views were shared by many Austrians at a time when anti-Semitism was widespread across much of Europe and before it became associated with the Holocaust.

Vienna Counselor for Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny of the governing Social Democrat-Greens coalition announced the name change on Thursday, saying the city "should not act as if there were no dark spots" in its history. At the same time, he said, statues and other reminders of Lueger's tenure spread throughout the city will remain standing.

Austria's rightist-populist Freedom Party—whose supporters range from those disillusioned with more traditional parties to Islamophobes and Holocaust deniers—criticized the decision.

In his comments, Strache invoked a decision by Vienna's Social Democratic government four years ago to erect a bust of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in a city park. "The socialists set up a memorial for a foreign mass murderer like Che Guevara, but an excellent Viennese mayor is stripped of a street name," said Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache. "This is a scandal!" His party is Austria's second-strongest political force.

However, Oskar Deutsch, who represents Vienna's Jewish community, praised the action. In an allusion to the Freedom Party, he said the name change should "also serve as a warning on our present politicians who frivolously and reprehensibly use anti-Semitic, racially motivated and xenophobic slogans."

Austria has moved from its postwar portrayal of being Nazi Germany's first victim to acknowledging that it was Hitler's willing partner. Most young Austrians reject Nazi ideology and condemn the part their parents might have played in the mass murder of Europe's Jews.

The centrist People's Party—which governs together with the Social Democrats nationally—also took Vienna's Social Democrats to task.

While agreeing that Lueger's heritage needed to be looked at critically, People's Party chief Manfred Juraczka said the municipal's coalition government did not have the moral authority to decide on a name change after commemorating "the mass-murderer Che Guevara" with a bust.

Greens official Alexander Van der Bellen described Lueger as a "great communal politician" whose image was nonetheless besmirched with "his expressions of anti-Semitism."

HUNGARY | Socialists call for probe into Jobbik mayor’s talk of “civil war”

Friday, 20 April 2012, 17:02 | Sources: MTI/Budapest Times |

The main opposition Socialists have initiated a meeting of parliament’s national security committee in connection with a sound recording posted by commercial television channel atv’s website which allegedly contains the mayor of Gyongyospata, of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, discussing the possible outcome of a “civil war” with people who also make strong racist remarks, party head Attila Mesterhazy said on Thursday.

According to, the recording made in May 2011 featured Mayor Oszkar Juhasz, a man who identified himself as a campaign chief appointed by Jobbik’s national board, and two alleged vigilantes — thought to belong to the banned paramilitary Hungarian Guard’s successor organisation For a Better Future Association — discussing at length “the possible outcome of an unavoidable civil war,” said.

Mesterhazy said the recording also contained the voices of others discussing Jews and Gypsies as “the races which have to be ground up as soon as possible”.

Mesterhazy said the statements in the recording constituted among the most serious crimes in the penal code, an attempt to overturn constitutional order. He said he had asked the national security committee’s chairman, Zsolt Molnar, of the Socialists, to call a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the matter.

He said the committee should discuss what kind of activities are under way to overturn the constitutional order, whether any preparations are being financed by foreign sources and if any political party or its affiliations are involved in training people and preparing them to “win an imaginary civil war”. Also to be investigated is whether or not any efforts have been made to influence members of the Hungarian army, he said.

Juhasz told MTI in reaction to the allegations that he had not heard of the recording. Jobbik declined to comment, stating that it was a private conversation that had only revealed that Jobbik politicians were being monitored using the methods of the secret services.

“I am not aware of the existence of such a recording and I have not made such statements,” Juhasz told MTI after being told about the contents of the recording. He said there was a witch hunt against Jobbik and himself personally, and that even if the recording did indeed exist it must have been doctored.

Zsolt Molnar has called a meeting of parliament’s national security committee for Friday. The small opposition LMP has called on Hungary’s chief prosecutor to evaluate the recording. LMP also calls on leaders of Jobbik to comment on the statements, lawmaker Lajos Mile told a press conference.

Gyongyospata was the flashpoint of friction between radical nationalists and the local Roma community which developed in March and April last year.

Meanwhile, Jobbik is proposing to “protect public morals and the mental health of the young generations” by banning the popularisation of “sexual deviancy”. The author of the draft legislation, spokesman Ádám Mírkóczki, say that it would amend the criminal code and laws on the media and advertising. His targets are “homosexuality, sex changes, transvestitism, bisexuality and paedophile behaviour”, state news agency MTI hasreported.

The proposed amendments would criminalise anyone who “popularises their sexual relations – deviancy – with another person of the same sex, or other disturbances of sexual behaviour, before the wider public”.

This would get you three years in prison according to Jobbik’s proposal, and would presumably apply to participants in Gay Pride events. If the “popularising” is done in front of minors the jail term would be five years, and eight years if the minors are under the perpetrators’ care.

“All normal people think that (such behaviours) have a distinctly negative effect on the psychological development of the younger generation,” Mirkóczky said. He called on other political parties to put the issue on the parliamentary agenda. “One cannot duck the issue,” he said.

The left-liberal Democratic Coalition (DK) called Jobbik’s proposal “despicable and shameful”. It also reflects the “unrealistic, fundamentalist notions… of the prime minister and his party,” DK deputy leader Péter Niedermüller said.

DENMARK | Racist trash talk lands politician in hot water

Wednesday, 18 April 2012, 17:26 | Source: |

A screenshot from Tina Petersen's Facebook account captures the distasteful joke (Facebook screenshot provided by Ekstra Bladet)

Tina Petersen, a former MP for Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and current Svendborg city councillor, posted a photo on Facebook that compared Muslims to rubbish.

“Hehe ... Remember to take out the big trash tomorrow ;-)))..” Petersen wrote next to a manipulated photo of a burka-clad Muslim woman and a child, who are made to resemble the two rubbish bags they are standing next to.

An outraged Copenhagen resident, Lars Nexø, notified the police, reports Ekstra Bladet.

“I don’t think you can compare people with garbage − it's an insult. I am convinced that people who wear the burka do not think it is especially fun − but this clearly indicates that Tina Petersen and her friends find it funny,” Nexo told TV2 Fyn.

Petersen − an MP for DF up until the September elections − has made no comments about her Facebook fiasco. One of her online acquaintances, however, said plenty, as she wrote: “Remember: It must be taken to the municipality’s chemical department, as it is hazardous waste;)” in reply to Petersen’s distasteful post.

The post has been deleted from Petersen's Facebook profile, but Ekstra Bladet managed to get a screenshot of the offensive post before it was removed.

The photo did elicit some limited condemnation from other members of the DF.

"There's no need to insult people," DF member and fellow city council member, Jens Munk, told TV2 Fyn.

Petersen has now been called in for a "private conversation" about the photo according to DF's organisational vice-chair, Carl Ebbesen.

"We want to have a chat with Tina Petersen, but I am sure she didn't mean to insult anyone," Ebbesen told TV2 Fyn.

COSTA RICA | Nazi cop fired!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012, 17:20 | Source: |

Costa Rica security minister, Mario Zamora, has taken quick action to sack the police official who posted on his personal Facebook page, pictures with a Nazi flag and making Nazi gestures.

The photos sparked a controversy over the last 24 hours, in which Ronald Herrera Borges, dressed in a Fuerza Pública uniform, is seen with friends of the neo-Nazi movement.

Zamora said that Article 140 of the Constitution justifies the immediate dismissal of the police official and gives Herrera five days to appeal the firing.

"If they already knew my ideology, my tatoos and my religion, why are the implications now, just because someone sent some pictures of me, including photos of me accusing me of things that are not, because I am seen with a (Nazi) flag and in uniform, which I am not", said Herrera on national television.

The young police official does not deny belonging to the neo-Nazi movement that is in developing in the country but criticized police leaders, stating that there are "more serious" situations withing the police that go unnoticed.

CANADA | Data shows Saskatchewan hate crimes often violent

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 22:57 | Source: The Leader-Post |

Cpl. Normandie Levas of the B.C. Hate Crime Team puts away neo-Nazi paraphernalia in this December 9, 2011 in Vancouver. Stats Canada is reporting a drop in the number of hate crimes reported in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada although the number of police-reported hate crimes committed in Saskatchewan was low, most were violent.

The results are based on data collected in 2010 and were released this week.

In Saskatchewan, in 2010 there were 22 police-reported hate crimes and 54.5 per cent of those involved violence. Across Canada, there was a total of 1,401 hate crimes reported and of those 33.6 per cent were violent.

Hate crimes refer to criminal acts that, upon investigation by police, are determined to have been motivated by hate toward an identifiable group. This can include being targeted based on a person’s race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, language, sex, age, mental or physical disability, or other factors such as profession or political beliefs.

Statistics Canada has been collecting police-reported hate crime data since 2006. As of 2010, the data covers about 99 per cent of the Canadian population.

Overall, the data indicates hate crimes have declined since 2009. The rate of hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity decreased by 20 per cent, those motivated by religion dropped by 17 per cent, however, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation remained virtually unchanged.

Lisa Smith, executive director of the URpride centre, said she’s not surprised there has been no change in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t gone up a little bit,” she said. “Generally, when you look at hate crimes motivated by sexuality a lot of people don’t report them. We’ve seen a bit of an incline in acceptance over the last couple of years so there’s more people willing to report them than perhaps a couple years ago.”

Smith has been working in the community for the past six years and says she has known a lot of people who have been “gay-bashed.” She said the if people did report the incidents then the number of hate crimes would be a lot higher.

“I haven’t really seen that much being done to stop it,” said Smith.

Her organization is working to create a safe, positive and accepting atmosphere at the University of Regina. It has a youth program for anyone between the ages of 14 and 24 and launched the Positive Space Network in October.

Although the rate of hate crimes with violence in the province is higher than the national average, Saskatchewan’s number of actual crimes is on the low end of the scale.

According to the data, Ontario topped the list with 739 hate crimes followed by Quebec with 239 and British Columbia with 179. In the Prairie provinces, Alberta had the most with 134 and Manitoba has 55 compared to Saskatchewan’s 22 reported incidents. In the Maritimes Nova Scotia had the most reported incidents with 26, followed by New Brunswick with 19, Newfoundland and Labrador with five and Prince Edward Island with three. In the north, Yukon and the Northwest Territories each reported three incidents and there was no data for Nunavut.

COSTA RICA | Costa Rica police investigate photos of their own in Nazi gestures

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 22:51 | Source: |

Photographs posted on his Facebook profile have landed policeman Murdock Ronald Herrera, dressed in police uniform and with gestures and emblems evoking the Nazi ideology, in the middle of an investigation by the country's police force.

Deputy security minister, Celso Gamboa, has confirmed the investigation and added that the images do not represent the ideology and values of the country's security forces.

Murdock, 26 years of age, who has been a member of the Fuerza Publica (police) since 2009, will now be part of an administrative investigation into his actions

"The pictures are posted in the personal (Facebook) account, so it does not represent the thinking of the security forces", said Gamboa.

In the Facebook profile, Murdock appears in several photos dressed in a Fuerza Publica uniform, offering neo-Nazi gestures, including some images that display the flag of Costa Rica.

LATEST: Security Minister Mario Zamora announced today that Herrera will be fired.

Images from Facebook:

RUSSIA | Football official jokes about racist incidents

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 22:49 | Source: RIA Novosti |

Christopher Samba

Christopher Samba

The Russian football official responsible for fans’ behaviour has joked about the country’s record on racism, saying that bananas such as those thrown at black players in recent incidents “always make you happy”, in comments at a press conference Tuesday.

Fans have thrown bananas at Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos and Congolese defender Christopher Samba, both Anzhi players, at Russian Premier League games this season.

“It’s true that they give out bananas to the players, and to the match delegates, and to the referees," the Russian Premier League director of security, Alexander Meitin, said.

"They give them bananas, a nutritious fruit, obviously. And generally a yellow fruit, it always makes you happy.”

He also joked that bananas were now banned for all fans, “even in the VIP areas,” an apparent reference to an incident where a banana was thrown at Samba from the executive seats of Lokomotiv Moscow’s ground.

Meitin’s brief as director of security covers fans’ behavior, including racist incidents.

In the last two months, the Russian Football Union has forced second-tier side Torpedo Moscow to play three home games behind closed doors after repeated racist incidents.

In another case, Spartak Moscow are appealing against sanctions placed on their Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike, who received a fine and a suspended season-long ban earlier this month after showing the middle finger to Dynamo Moscow fans who, he said, had shouted racist insults at him.

SWEDEN | Minister in 'racist circumcision outrage'

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 22:36 | Source: |

Minister in 'racist circumcision outrage'

Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth's participation in a "racist spectacle" in which she carved up a cake depicting a naked black woman has sparked outrage and prompted calls for the minister's dismissal.

"In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden," Kitimbwa Sabuni, spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association told The Local.

"This was a racist spectacle."

Sabuni's comments come following Adelsohn Liljeroth's participation in an art installation that took place at Stockholm's Moderna Museet in connection with World Art Day on April 15th.

As part of the installation, which was reportedly meant to highlight the issue of female circumcision, the culture minister began cutting a large cake shaped like a black woman, symbolically starting at the clitoris.

Makode Aj Linde, the artist who created the installation and whose head is part of the cake cut by the minister, wrote about the "genital mutilation cake" on his Facebook page.

"Before cutting me up she whispered, 'Your life will be better after this' in my ear," he wrote in a caption next to the partially eaten cake.

But images of the event, which show a smiling and laughing Adelsohn Liljeroth slicing up the cake, have caused the National Afro-Swedish Association and its members to see red and issue calls for her resignation.

"According to the Moderna Museet, the 'cake party' was meant to problematize female circumcision but how that is accomplished through a cake representing a racist caricature of a black woman complete with 'black face' is unclear," Sabuni said in a statement.

According to Sabuni, the mere fact that the minister particiapted in the event, which he argued was also marked by "cannibalistic" overtones, betrays her "incompetence and lack of judgement".

"Her participation, as she laughs, drinks, and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision," he said.

"We have no confidence in her any longer."

Speaking with the TT news agency, Adelsohn Liljeroth was sympathetic to the association's reaction, but nevertheless defended her actions.

"I understand quite well that this is provocative and that it was a rather bizarre situation," she said.

"I was invited to speak at World Art Day about art's freedom and the right to provoke. And then they wanted me to cut the cake."

However, Adelsohn Liljeroth said the National Afro-Swedish Association's anger should be directed at the artist, not at her, claiming the situation was "misinterpreted".

"He claims that it challenges a romanticized and exoticized view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism," she said.

"Art needs to be provocative."

But the minster's defence of her actions rang hollow for Sabuni.

"It's extremely insulting for the minister to claim that we've somehow 'misunderstood' racism," he said.

According to Sabuni, the incident is "strange" but "not unexpected" in the Swedish context.

"Sweden thinks of itself as a place where racism is not a problem," he said.

"That just provides cover for not discussing the issue which leads to incidents like this."

While a museum is certainly allowed to do what it wants as long as the laws are followed, Sabuni argued that a minister needs to be held to "higher standards".

"To participate in a racist manifestation masquerading as art is totally over the line and can only be interpreted as the culture minister supporting the Moderna Museet's racist prank," he said.

ISRAEL | Beitar Jerusalem fans beat Jewish musician for protesting against their racism

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 22:25 | Source: |

Militant supporters of the controversial Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, known for their anti-Palestinian, anti-Ashkenazi Jewish attitudes, harassed and beat a middle-aged Jewish woman who objected to their anti-Arab slogans in the second such attack in less than a month, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

Contrary to last month’s assault by the Beitar fans on Palestinian shoppers and workers in a Jerusalem mall, police launched an immediate investigation. The Israeli police force was heavily criticized for failing to initially intervene or investigation the mall incident.

The attacks as well as the police’s laxity have outraged many Israelis and raised questions about the moral fiber of a society that tolerates such incidents as well as a soccer club that is unashamedly racist.

Jerusalem musician Reli Margalit was attacked after she objected to dozens of Beitar fans chanting anti-Arab slogans as they marched on Sunday to Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium for a match against Hapoel Acre that Beitar won 1:0.

“I heard cries of ‘Death to the Arabs,’ and since I was still incensed by the Malha Mall attack, I decided that I had to confront them now. I made a sign reading ‘Down with Beitar’s racism.’ I believed that since I’m not a young woman and since I was alone, at worst it would come to curses, no more,” Ms. Margalit told Haaretz.

Her assumption proved to be wrong. “Within seconds they surrounded me and started spitting at me. They took away my sign, and one of them – actually an older fan – hit me on the head with the pole of his flag. None of the fans protected me, and one girl showed up and tried to argue with me,” she said.

Police said they had escorted the militants for part of their march but had not heard racist slurs in the fans’ chants.

In a repeat of Beitar’s standard response to the racism of its most militant fans, spokesman Assaf Shaked said the team “cannot be responsible to all its supporters’ actions.”

Mounting Beitar fan aggression and violence is believed to stem from the growing influence among the club’s fans of a group known as La Familia that is dominated by supporters of Kach, the outlawed violent and racist party that was headed by assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane. Beitar’s management has so far failed to stymie the group’s influence.

The incidents occurred in what City University of New York scholar Dov Waxman described in a recent article in The Middle East Journal as an atmosphere of escalating tension between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. “Attitudes on both sides have hardened, mutual distrust has intensified, fear has increased, and political opinion has become more militant and uncompromising….Jews and Palestinians are currently on a collision course, with potentially severe consequences for their continued peaceful co-existence, as well as for stability and democracy in Israel,” Mr. Waxman wrote.

The incidents further highlight the failure of the Israeli Football Association (IFA), the only soccer body in the Middle East and North Africa to have launched a campaign against racism and discrimination, to rein in the Beitar fans and curb the club’s submission to its supporters’ racist attitudes. With the worst disciplinary record in Israel’s Premier League, Beitar has faced since 2005 more than 20 hearings and has received various punishments, including point deductions, fines and matches behind closed doors because of its fans’ racist behaviour.

Beitar’s matches often resemble a Middle Eastern battlefield. It’s mostly Sephardic fans of Middle Eastern and North African origin, revel in their status as the bad boys of Israeli soccer. Their dislike of Ashkenazi Jews of East European extraction rivals their disdain for Palestinians.

Supported by Israeli right wing leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Beitar traces its roots to a revanchist Zionist youth movement. Its founding players actively resisted the pre-state British mandate authorities.

Beitar is Israel’s only leading club never to have signed an Israeli Palestinian player because of fan pressure despite the fact that Palestinians are among the country’s top players. Maccabi Haifa striker Mohammed Ghadir recently put Beitar on the spot when he challenged the club to hire him despite its discriminatory hiring policies. The club refused on the grounds that its fans were not willing to accept a Palestinian player.

Beitar fans shocked Israelis several years ago when they refused to observe a moment of silence for assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who initiated the first peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

USA | National Guard sergeant linked to Nazism fired

Monday, 16 April 2012, 20:56 | Source: Hannibal Courier Post |

A Missouri National Guardsman accused of proclaiming himself a neo-Nazi has been fired from his state job as a member of a military honor guard that appears at funerals of veterans.

While a local funeral home acknowledged that periodically members of that group are utilized during funerals in the Hannibal area, the Courier-Post could not immediately determine if Nathan Wooten had ever participated in a service in Hannibal.

Former co-workers of Wooten filed complaints nearly a year ago claiming he had a portrait of Adolf Hitler in his living room, had tried to recruit others to the cause and had named his son after a notorious leader of the German SS, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Post-Dispatch was about to publish a story about the state’s lack of action when a guard spokeswoman, Maj. Tammy Spicer, notified the newspaper Friday that Wooten had been fired from his full-time state position with the funeral program as a result of an investigation into a variety of complaints.

Wooten is not accused of having broken any laws, but the U.S. military bans participation in extremist groups and groups that “actively advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology or causes.” Spicer would not elaborate about the funeral honors program firing. She said a separate investigation by the Guard is in its final stages.

Wooten, however, has denied being involved in neo-Nazi activities.
“I didn’t do any of that,” said Wooten, 32, at the National Guard armory in Macon last month. “I don’t need to explain anything to you guys. It’s been taken care of.”

“It’s about time,” said Republican State Sen. Bill Stouffer, of Napton, who had inquired about the case on behalf of three of the co-workers. “... I don’t know why it took so long to get to where we are, but, finally, the right thing has happened.”

Brandon Knott, 24, said he began working with Wooten in 2007 at the funeral honors program, which sends at least two uniformed National Guard members or retirees to funeral services. He said that around the time Wooten was promoted to team leader, Wooten told him about joining the National Socialist Movement, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the U.S.

“He always talked about how great of an organization it is and how they hate minorities like blacks, Mexicans and Jews and how great the U.S. would be without them,” Knott later wrote in a complaint to one of his superiors. Knott and two other co-workers provided copies of their complaints to the Post-Dispatch.

Knott and another worker who filed a complaint, Eddie Ratliff, said that in November 2008, Wooten drove his own vehicle to a Columbia funeral so that afterward he could attend a neo-Nazi protest in Jefferson City and a private after-party that included the burning of books by Jewish authors. Knott wrote in his complaint that Wooten showed him cellphone photographs of the book burning.

Knott also said Wooten showed him Facebook photos that he said were taken in a Jewish cemetery and that showed purported friends of his urinating on a grave and giving the Nazi salute.

Knott said he considered turning Wooten in at the time, but thought he lacked proof and wouldn’t be believed.

A spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, said the league had reported Wooten to the Army in 2009, saying he had created a personal profile on New Saxon, a white supremacist social networking site operated by the National Socialist Movement.

Knott said he was asked by one of the funeral program’s area directors about Wooten’s involvement with white supremacist groups while Wooten was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. Knott said Wooten later told him that his superiors in Afghanistan had told him to stop any such activity but that he received no other discipline.

Co-workers said the racist comments resumed after Wooten’s return to the Macon office in 2010, and that in April 2011 they complained to a superior that Wooten fostered a racist and hostile work environment. In their statements, the co-workers reported that Wooten complained when they ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant, refused to have a person temporarily assigned to the office serve on the honor guard because he was of Mexican descent and balked at presenting flags to the families of black and Jewish veterans.

Frustrated by the investigation, Ratliff resigned and now works as a security guard at Missouri Military Academy in Mexico.“I couldn’t put up with it anymore,” said Ratliff, 49. “I just didn’t believe I belonged in the sort of group that would support something like that.”

Knott’s active duty orders that had him working full time for the funeral program ended in September. In December, Knott contacted Stouffer, the state senator, who contacted the National Guard.

“On the surface, it’s unforgivable,” Stouffer said about the length of the National Guard investigation. “To me that’s unacceptable.”

POLAND/UKRAINE | Racism, anti-Semitism concerns linger in Poland, Ukraine as tournament nears

Monday, 16 April 2012, 20:45 | Source: Washington Post |

Racism remains a very real problem in European soccer despite widespread campaigns to quash its presence from the world’s most popular sport.

But from former England captain to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez , instances of on-field racism remain while rabid fanbases too frequently resort to racist chants and taunts to degrade opposing players and their fans. It’s a troubling reality for a sport build on its global appeal — and its one organizers for the upcoming European Championships must be prepared to tackle.

Euro 2012 kicks off in June in Ukraine and Poland — two countries whose soccer fanbases have a reputation for supporting neo-Nazi groups and engaging in blatant acts of hooliganism. And while the tournament’s governing body, UEFA, preaches its commitment to rooting out racism once and for all, it may have set a dangerous precedent with a pair of recent fines.

During a Europa League match between Manchester City and FC Porto, home fans berated City’s Mario Balotelli, who is black, with monkey chants. Six weeks later, UEFA fined FC Porto €20,000 for the chants — which was €10,000 fewer than Manchester City was fined for returning to the pitch “less than 60 seconds late” for the second half.

“The fine does nothing to help UEFA’s reputation in relation to how it tackles discrimination in football,” Herman Ousley, head of the anti-racism group Kick It Out, told CNN.

A recent Daily Telegraph story detailed the visible racism surrounding the stadium of Windzew Lodz, one of the country’s biggest domestic clubs. At a nearby outlet, patrons can purchase scarves and stickers with the motto “Jews forbidden” and T-shirts that read “Burn the Czechs” and “Beat the Greeks.” A store employee quoted in the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza said they stock the items “because they sell well and they’re in demand.”

A video posted on YouTube in Novemeber titled “Polish Hooligans Waiting for You (Euro2012)!!!” shows Polish soccer fans clashing in violent brawls in streets, fields and even on fields. And during a 2011 European match against Hapoel Tel Aviv, Polish team Legia Warszawa unfurled a giant banner with Jihad Legia written in Arabic-style lettering.

A study conducted by a Warsaw-based anti-racism group in 2011 found 195 incidents of racism in Polish and Ukranian soccer from September 2009 through March 2011.

“There is a racist culture in many Polish football clubs,” Rafal Pankowski, coordinator in Poland for UEFA’s Respect Diversity Campaign, said. “Racist materials are quite common, and distributed through fan networks and through the internet.”

On Thursday, Polish deputy interior minister Michal Deskur said security preparations were moving along and that “complete readiness should be confirmed in mid-May, about three weeks before the first match.”

National police have said they will be cracking down on racism and violence in the lead up to Euro 2012, and all of Europe will be tracking their ability to do so when teams and fans from 16 countries descend on Poland and Ukraine this June.

EUROPE | Is racism fine with UEFA? Eastern Europe will be watching closely

Monday, 16 April 2012, 20:34 | Source: CNN |

What's worse: racist monkey chants or being one minute late? The answer appears to be 60 seconds of tardiness, if the fines dished out by UEFA this week are anything to go by.

European football's governing body caused outrage by fining Manchester City €30,000 (£25,000) for running onto the pitch "less than 60 seconds late" -- which was €10,000 (£9,000) more than Porto's punishment for fans' racist abuse during a match against the English club.

Now, with just weeks until the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine -- countries with a reputation for neo-Nazi groups in the stands -- pressure is mounting on UEFA to prove it is serious about tackling racism.

The world will be watching the best teams in Europe go head-to-head, but they'll also be closely monitoring the one million fans expected to fill stadiums across the countries.

"This fine does nothing to help UEFA's reputation in relation to how it tackles discrimination in football," says Herman Ouseley, head of anti-racism group Kick It Out.

"We've seen significant punishments meted out in the past but, as an organization, the line it takes on such matters has lacked consistency.

"With the European Championships looming, and the potential flashpoints which may occur during the tournament with right-wing groups in eastern Europe, this seems to conflict with the strong anti-racism message UEFA should be promoting."

UEFA has been accused of double-standards after fining Manchester City 50% more than Porto for returning to the field late after the halftime break in a Europa League match against Sporting Lisbon last month.

The Portuguese club, in comparison, was charged €20,000 after its fans made monkey chants towards black City players Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure during the previous round at Estadio do Dragao.

The decision raises serious questions over UEFA's commitment to tackling racism in a part of the world still struggling against extremism.

The ugly cloud of racism hanging over football in Poland and Ukraine was highlighted earlier this year in an investigation by campaign group Never Again. Its report, called "Hateful," detailed 195 individual incidents of racist and discriminatory behavior in an 18-month period from September 2009 to March 2011, a figure that underlines the amount of work that still needs to be done.

"Unfortunately it seems racism is deeply rooted in the culture of soccer, especially in Eastern Europe," Rafal Pankowski, head of the Poland-based organization, told CNN last year.

"Of course it's a broader problem, affecting countries such as Spain and Italy, but it is a real issue in Eastern Europe.

"There is goodwill at the top of UEFA to deal with the issue, but their genuine commitment does not translate to national football federation level and this is where more awareness raising needs to be done," Pankowski said.

Keeping an eye on the crowd in Poland and Ukraine will be members from Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), who'll be reporting discriminatory behavior back to UEFA.

FARE has called for greater charges for racist fans. But executive director Piara Powar was also quick to point out the strict rationale behind UEFA's fines this week -- and the need to better communicate this to the public.

"UEFA has a very clear system of sanctions. I think the reason for the disparity in fines is this is the fourth time in two seasons that Man City have been late to play," he said.

"Whereas Porto haven't been in front of UEFA in three or four years. It's an important point that hasn't come across in the media."

CNN contacted UEFA to ask for clarification of the fines, but did not receive an official response. The ruling body, however, does have a strong stance against racism, and has worked closely with FARE since 2001.

Powar said extremist fans -- known as "ultras" -- are still a major issue in eastern Europe and his team will be looking for neo-Nazi paraphernalia throughout the tournament, which runs from June 8 to July 1.

However, Powar admitted that Poland's inclusion in the European Union in 2004 had significantly helped it reduce extremism.

"This is new territory for a major competition to go to a place like Poland or Ukraine. It's fantastic it's going to a new place, but it also means there are bigger challenges we face," he said.

"Our ongoing challenge is to get the message out to countries where African players, who aren't common, are being abused."

GREECE | Hard Times Lift Greece’s Anti-Immigrant Fringe

Friday, 13 April 2012, 09:09 | Source: NYT |

On a recent morning in the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Papagou here, members of the Greek ultranationalist group Golden Dawn stood at an outdoor vegetable market campaigning for the coming national elections.

“This is our party’s program, for a clean Greece, only for Greeks, a safe Greece,” Ilias Panagiotaros, the group’s spokesman and a candidate for office, said as he handed out leaflets.

He approached an older woman, who recounted how a relative had been robbed of about $800. “They threw her on the ground, they took the 600 euros she had withdrawn from the bank to pay for her husband’s nursing home,” the woman said. “She was even a Communist, and she told me, ‘I’m going to Golden Dawn to report this.’ ”

The exchange was a telling sign of how the hard-core group — better known for its violent tangles with immigrants in downtown Athens and for the Nazi salutes that some members perform at rallies — has been trying to broaden its appeal, capitalizing on fears that illegal immigration has grown out of control at a time when the economy is bleeding jobs.

Many polls indicate that in the national elections scheduled for May 6, Golden Dawn may surpass the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament. The group has been campaigning on the streets, something that mainstream politicians have avoided for fear of angry reactions by voters who blame them for Greece’s economic collapse.

But even if Golden Dawn fails to enter Parliament, it has already had an impact on the broader political debate. In response to the fears over immigration and rising crime, Greece’s two leading parties — the Socialist Party and the center-right New Democracy Party — have also tapped into nationalist sentiment and are tacking hard right in a campaign in which immigration has become as central as the economy.

Experts say the group is thriving where the Greek state seems absent, the most virulent sign of how the economic collapse has empowered fringe groups while eroding the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun comparing to Weimar Germany.

“Greek society at this point is a laboratory of extreme-right-wing evolution,” said Nicos Demertzis, a political scientist at the University of Athens. “We are going through an unprecedented financial crisis; we are a fragmented society without strong civil associations” and with “generalized corruption in all the administration levels.”

With what critics say is a poorly policed border with Turkey, Greece is seen as an entry point for illegal immigrants, some of them asylum seekers but most intent on moving to more promising economic terrain in Northern and Western Europe. But many of the immigrants remain in Greece or are returned there after being deported from other countries in Europe. This has stoked fears here of an onslaught of illegal immigrants, who economists say bear little or no responsibility for Greece’s economic troubles but who make easy scapegoats for politicians across the spectrum.

The Socialists, who were in power when Greece asked for a foreign bailout, have seen their popularity plummet, and they are desperate for a way to reconnect with voters. This month, Greece’s public order minister, Michalis Chrisochoidis, a Socialist in the interim government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, said Greece would set up detention centers for illegal immigrants. And the Socialist health minister caused a stir when he said that Greece would require illegal immigrants to undergo checks for infectious diseases.

But the established parties are also warning of the dangers of extremism. Last week, Evangelos Venizelos, who is running in the national elections as Socialist Party leader, warned that “Parliament cannot become a place for those nostalgic for fascism and Nazism.”

Golden Dawn is unabashedly nostalgic for both. Founded in the early 1980s by sympathizers of the military dictatorship that governed Greece from 1967 to 1974, Golden Dawn has always espoused a neo-Nazi ideology. Its symbol clearly resembles the swastika, and copies of “Mein Kampf” and books on the racial superiority of the Greeks are on prominent display in its Athens headquarters.

In the early 1990s, it capitalized on widespread opposition to the use of the name Macedonia by a former Yugoslav republic; a Greek region shares that name. And in recent years, Golden Dawn has muted the neo-Nazi talk and focused on anti-immigrant actions in downtown Athens, where the number of illegal immigrants, most from South Asia, Albania and Africa, has exploded.

The group has fostered grass-roots “citizens’ groups” that it says are intended to protect Greek citizens from crime by immigrants but that critics say are just vigilante squads.

In a high-profile episode last May, a Greek man was stabbed to death in Athens as he walked to his car to take his pregnant wife to the hospital. In response, Golden Dawn and other extreme-right-wing groups went on an anti-immigrant rampage that lasted for several days.

“Up to now, Golden Dawn was not politically dangerous but actually dangerous,” said Tassos Kostopoulos, an expert on Greek politics. He and others said Golden Dawn had historically had ties to the Greek state, especially the police. In a TV interview last year, Mr. Chrisochoidis, the Socialist public order minister, said that when he took office in 2009, “guys from Golden Dawn and a number of fascist types were participating in actions that assisted the police.”

Athanasios Kokkalakis, the Greek police spokesman, acknowledged episodes of racist violence in Athens but said that the police force had not verified ties between its members and Golden Dawn.

Golden Dawn has been running unsuccessfully in national elections since 1994, but it took a big step toward legitimization in 2010, when its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, was elected to the Athens City Council. In an interview, Mr. Michaloliakos called the group “national socialists” and said it was concerned about crime and the financial crisis.

He said that the group opposed Greece’s agreement with its foreign lenders and that the country’s political leadership was too beholden to “international bankers.” The Nazi salutes by Golden Dawn members were not official policy, he said, adding that “we can’t control thousands” of people. (Soon after his election, Mr. Michaloliakos himself was captured on videodoing a Nazi salute in the City Council.)

Asked if he believed that the Holocaust had happened, Mr. Michaloliakos said, “I think all history is written by the winners.”

Another leading Golden Dawn official, Ilias Kasidiaris, was more blunt. “The main view in Europe is that six million Jews were killed. History has shown that this is a lie,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Kasidiaris added that he believed that all illegal immigrants should be “deported immediately,” and that Greece should plant minefields along its border with Turkey “Not to kill the immigrants,” he said, “but to clearly define an area that would stop anyone from thinking of accessing the country.”

Although Golden Dawn is clearly still cozy with neo-Nazi ideology, it has also tapped into rising Greek nationalist sentiment, which is now anti-German. “It’s right to hate Germany, because it is still the leader of the banksters and the European Union,” Mr. Michaloliakos, the group’s leader, said, using a derogatory term for bankers.

It remains to be seen whether Golden Dawn is truly interested in transforming itself from a collection of street fighters into a political party. The group’s leaders repeatedly refused to allow reporters to attend their party meetings, saying it would violate members’ privacy. The leaders claim that the group has 12,000 members, but that figure could not be independently verified.

Back at the vegetable market, as Golden Dawn members handed out newspapers, a few South Asian immigrants who work there stood quietly off to the side. A founding member of Golden Dawn, Michalis Karakostas, gave a reporter his phone number.

“If Pakistanis squat your front door, call me, not the cops,” he said.

FINLAND | Finns Party MP’s assistant suggests armbands for immigrants

Friday, 13 April 2012, 01:33 | |

According to the Turun Sanomat, Finns Party MP James Hirvisaari, who was last year convicted and fined by Kouvola District Court for incitement to ethnic or racial hatred, is in trouble again.

This time the cause is his parliamentary assistant Helena Eronen, who suggested on her blog on the Uusi Suomi website that making it mandatory for immigrants to wear armbands would make policing significantly easier.

‘If every foreigner was obliged to wear a mark on their sleeve stating their country of origin, then the police could see at a glance that “aha, there’s a muslim from Somalia,” or “aha, that’s a beggar from Romania,”’ Eronen wrote.

Muslims could be assigned a crescent mark, Eronen added, and Russian immigrants a hammer and sickle emblem. She also proposed identifying marks for Swedish Finns and homosexuals.

The blog post was added on Wednesday afternoon, but was removed later that evening.

Eronen is the second Finns Party parliamentary to cause controversy. Late last year Juho Eerola’s parliamentary assistant Ulla Pyysalo admitted applying for membership of a Finnish neo-Nazi party. According to a YLE report on February 23, Pyysalo was allowed to remain in her position because she couldn’t find any other job.

POLAND | Euro 2012: anti-semitic football merchandise on sale in Poland

Friday, 13 April 2012, 01:30 | Source: Daily Telegraph |

Football merchandise bearing anti-Semitic slogans and calling for attacks on visiting fans is on sale in Poland just weeks before hundreds of thousands of football fans descend on the country for the 2012 European championships.

At one outlet in the shadow of the stadium belonging to Widzew Lodz, one of Poland's biggest clubs, fans can buy scarves and stickers with the motto "Jews forbidden" and T-shirts with slogans extolling violence against Poland's opponents in the tournament the Czech Republic and Greece."Burn the Czechs" and "Beat the Greeks" read some of the shirts while another calls for "no mercy" to be shown to "visitors". An employee at the shop is quoted by the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza as saying the shop stocked the materials "because they sell well and they're in demand".

Anti-racism campaigners also claim "To My Kibice", a popular fan magazine sold in high-street shops, often carries advertisements for racist and xenophobic material.

The availability and apparent popularity of the products have fuelled fears of outbreaks of racism and violence during Euro 2012, which starts in June and is co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine. England play their group matches in Ukraine but will stay in the southern Polish city of Krakow.

YouCrowd trouble has blighted Polish football for years with many clubs attracting a hard core of hooligans known as "ultras". Intent on violence and an ingrained aspect of the football scene they have wrought bloody havoc at even high-profile games such as the 2011 Polish FA Cup final.

A video posted on You Tube titled "Polish Hooligans Waiting for You" features graphic footage of Polish fans fighting each other and the police.

Racist chants and banners are also no strangers to the terraces. Last year fans of the capital side Legia Warszawa drew international condemnation when they unfurled a massive banner during a European match against Hapoel Tel Aviv bearing the slogan "Jihad Legia" written in Arabic style writing.

A report released at the end of last year by a Warsaw-based anti-racism group documented 195 incidents of racism in Polish and Ukrainian football between September 2009 and March 2011, and its compilers said that this figure was probably "just the tip of the iceberg".

"There is a racist culture in many Polish football clubs," said Rafal Pankowski, coordinator in Poland for UEFA's Respect Diversity Campaign, and an expert on the Polish extreme right. "Racist materials are quite common, and distributed through fan networks and through the internet." Poland's football authorities and police, which have faced frequent accusations of possessing a lacklustre attitude when it comes to tackling racism and violence, have promised to crack down hard on any trouble.

Thousands of police will be on duty for the duration of the tournament, and authorities have banned the display of any racist, religious or political material at grounds.

RUSSIA | Ten Moscow students jailed for racist bomb attacks

Thursday, 12 April 2012, 19:11 | Source: SOVA Centre |

A Moscow court today sentenced 10 university students to up to 13 years in prison on "terroism" charges for staging bombing attacks against security buildings and Muslim targets.

The students admitted in court to having been members of a gang called the Autonomous Military Terrorist Organisation that operated in the Russian capital in 2009 and 2010.

They were found guilty of making home-made bombs with basic chemistry with which they attacked police posts and the reception office of the Federal Security Service (ex-KGB).

The RAPSI legal news agency said some in the group were also found guilty of attacking the cars of policemen who looked like they came from Russia's mostly Muslim North Caucasus region.

No one was reported to have been killed in the attacks.

The Sova human rights organisation said seven people were killed in racist and neonazi attacks in Moscow last year – a sharp decline from the 64 who died in 2008 and the 49 people who were killed in 2009.

The Russian authorities began to crack down on neo-Nazi groups and focus their attention on racial tensions in society after a wave of nationalist rallies hit Moscow in late 2010 following the stabbing death of a football fan.

USA | Key Georgia Militia members plead guilty in terror plot

Thursday, 12 April 2012, 19:07 | Source: splc |

Two members of a Georgia militia — arrested late last year in a plot to bomb federal buildings , assassinate public officials and attack cities with deadly ricin — pleaded guilty today to conspiracy charges in a Gainesville, Ga., courtroom.

Accused ringleader Frederick W. Thomas, 73, and Emory Dan Roberts, 67, both entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiring to possess explosives and firearms.

The case was labeled by the FBI as one of its top domestic terrorism investigations of 2011 following the arrests of Thomas and Roberts and two others last November.

The plea bargains were struck by the Justice Department prosecutors less than a month after a federal judge in Michigan dismissed similar conspiracy charges against seven members of another militia group accused in an unrelated plot to kill police officers. Two members of the Hutaree Militia subsequently pleaded guilty to weapons charges , effectively ending that case.

Thomas and Roberts each face a maximum of five years in prison. A date for sentencing wasn’t immediately set, but routine background reports were ordered for both. Thomas, of Cleveland, Ga., is a great-grandfather and 30-year Navy veteran who had a “top-secret” government clearance, according to his wife, who was not charged in the case.

Court documents indicate Thomas’ public defender, who didn’t immediately return calls for comment, would attempt to have him released from custody pending sentencing. Thomas is being treated for kidney disease and had a portion of one lung removed last year.

When federal agents searched Thomas’ home, they seized 52 firearms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition. Under plea agreements such as Thomas’, firearms and ammunition are routinely forfeited by defendants with criminal convictions because they can no longer possess weapons.

Charging documents said Thomas expected a “line-in-the-sand” event that would require a harsh reaction from citizen militia groups. “He openly discussed having compiled what he called a ‘bucket list’ of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media” he believed needed to be assassinated to save the country, the documents alleged. Secretly recorded tapes obtained by the FBI during the investigation show that that list included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, appointed by President Obama.

Thomas also expressed a fascination with an online novel, Absolved, written by longtime Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh. The book describes a small group of Americans who assassinate federal officials.

Roberts, of Toccoa, Ga., is believed to have been affiliated with the 440th Squad of the Georgia Militia, which has 19 chapters in the state, according to research by Hatewatch. That group is remarkable for its anti-Semitic and sometimes neo-Nazi rhetoric. His wife previously told Hatewatch that her husband is no terrorist and is more interested in rescuing dogs and cats than antigovernment activities.

Written plea agreements were signed by both defendants, but weren’t immediately available for public inspection. Both men could be subpoenaed to testify against the two remaining co-defendants, Samuel J. Crump Jr., 68, and Ray H. Adams, 65, both of Toccoa. Crump and Roberts are charged with conspiring to make and disperse ricin.

The case against the four was developed with two informants, one of whom faces child molestation and child porn charges.

After the arrests, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of George described the defendants as “part of a fringe militia group” that was “planning attacks against their own fellow citizens and government.”

“To carry out their agenda, two of the defendants allegedly purchased purported explosives and a silencer, while the other two defendants took steps to attempt to produce a deadly biological toxin,” Yates said. “While many Americans are focused on the threat posed by international terrorists, “this case demonstrates that we must also remain vigilant in protecting our country from citizens within our own borders who threaten our safety and security.”

SWITZERLAND | Swiss magazine in racism row over Roma child shooter

Wednesday, 11 April 2012, 01:08 | Source: |

The Swiss news magazine Weltwoche is facing angry accusations of racism in the German-speaking world after publishing a front page picture of a gun-toting child with a headline that warns of a looming Roma crime wave.

Switzerland's Federal Commission against Racism is considering whether to take action against the magazine after a number of complaints were filed for the alleged violation of anti-racism laws.

In its latest edition, the magazine's cover features a small child pointing a gun at the reader, with the caption, “The Roma are coming: Plunder in Switzerland”.

Reacting to what they view as flagrant racism, readers in Switzerland, Austria and Germany have all been in contact with the relevant authorities to report the magazine for inciting hatred.

In an open letter, Switzerland's Young Greens have accused the magazine of being “wildly off the mark" by appearing to equate the Roma people with criminality. “It is hurtful and demeaning,” the letter concluded.

An Austrian journalist, Klaus Kamolz, has accused the magazine of inciting racial hatred, while a Swiss woman from Basel Land has claimed that the publication breaches Swiss anti-racism laws. A lawsuit has also been instigated in Germany, Tages Anzeiger reported.

But Weltwoche deputy editor and article co-author, Philipp Gut, said he does not understand the furious reaction.

“Roma bands use their children for criminal purposes," he said. "The real scandal is that none of those who are outraged are doing anything about this abuse.”

The controversial picture was taken by Italian photographer, Livio Mancini, in 2008 at a rubbish dump in Kosovo. The image was obtained through an agency and he had no control over its use, he told Tages Anzeiger.

BELGIUM | Belgian far-right emulates the Dutch xenophobic website

Wednesday, 11 April 2012, 01:05 | Source: |

The far-right Vlaams Belang launched a website yesterday (10 April) that invites people to report crimes committed by illegal immigrants, mirroring a similar site in the Netherlands set up by the far-right Freedom Party.

The website created by Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) invites people to file anonymous tips about social security fraud, work on the black market and more serious crimes, a move anti-racism activists compared to Nazi tactics.

The Vlaams Belang was previously known as Vlaams Blok, but the political force had to change its name in 2004 after Belgium's Court of Cassation found it in violation of the law against racism.

The Vlaams Belang has 12 seats in the Belgium Parliament's lower chamber and five senators, but suffers from competition from the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA). N-VA was the leading vote-getter in Belgium's Flemish-speaking region in the June 2010 national elections, but was isolated from the present governing coalition led by Socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

Filip Dewinter, the Vlaams Belang leader, defended the website because of the presence of "tens of thousands of illegal immigrants" in Belgian cities and the problems stemming from them. He added that the data reported would be sent to the police.

Jozef De Witte, director of the Centre for Equality and Struggle Against Racism, told Belgium's Radio 1 that the website is reminiscent of measures taken by the Nazis in the 1930s or the East German secret police during the Cold War. "This is completely illegal. Mr Dewinter knows this very well. He wants to shock and provoke," De Witte said.

The Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) created a similar website ," asking people to provide information about "nuisance" associated with migrant workers or those who lost jobs to them (see background).

The European Parliament has pressed Prime Minister Mark Rutte to distance himself from it but Rutte, whose majority in the 150-seat lower house requires support from the PVV's 23 lawmakers, has declined to condemn it.

POLAND | Far-right rally on plane crash anniversary

Wednesday, 11 April 2012, 00:59 | Source: |

Several thousand far-right activists chanted anti-government slogans in Warsaw yesterday as they gathered to honour Poland’s former president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in Russia in 2010 along with many of the country’s ruling elite.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin and leader of Poland’s main opposition party, addressed the crowds, who were waving Polish flags and holding banners saying “It was not an accident”. “They (the passengers) were betrayed ... the whole truth will only see the light of the day when we regain power,” Kaczynski, who heads the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), said on the second anniversary of the crash.

The chief of Poland’s armed forces, the head of its navy, its central bank governor and lawmakers were among those killed as the plane was attempting to land in thick fog in Smolensk in western Russia.
Kaczynski, known for its deep distrust of the Kremlin, has repeatedly said that Russia bore responsibility for the air crash, which killed all 96 people on board.

Earlier this week he said he was “increasingly convinced” the crash was the result of an attack after a report by his party showed two explosions shook the plane before it hit the ground.

Warsaw is at loggerheads with Moscow over the reasons behind the crash and the dispute has overshadowed a cautious rapprochement between the two neighbours.

An earlier Russian probe put the blame solely on the Polish side, but Poland has argued that Russian ground controllers in Smolensk also contributed to the crash.

Despite an initial outpouring of compassion among Russians, the aftermath of the crash has weighed on the already-strained relations between the two countries.

Warsaw accuses Moscow of not showing good will to return the wreckage, which still sits at Smolensk airport.

“The question of passing on to the Polish side the wreckage of the crashed plane, which is evidence in a criminal case, will be considered after the end of the investigation,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said yesterday.

But the committee – Russia’s top federal investigative body – added that it was now ready to discuss procedural aspects of the transfer of the plane’s debris to Poland.

Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker at Russia’s State Duma lower chamber of parliament, also said in Smolensk yesterday that a lot of evidence has already been examined in the probe, but did not say when the investigation might be concluded.

RUSSIA | Russian nationalists unite to form new party

Tuesday, 10 April 2012, 12:48 | Source: RIA Novosti |

A number of prominent Russian nationalists united on Thursday to announce the creation of a potential new political force – the National Democratic Party.

“We intend to file for party registration in the near future and then take part in elections, at which we are counting on doing well,” party leader Konstantin Krylov told journalists at a downtown Moscow news conference. Russia has seen a dramatic rise in nationalist sentiments since the break-up of the Soviet Union, with far-right movements prominent at this winter’s mass protests against the policies of President-elect Vladimir Putin and his ruling United Russia party.

“The spirit of the times has changed and the wind is blowing in our sails,” said party executive committee head Vladimir Tor. He also said he was “100 percent” sure the party would not be denied registration. “Russians must become the genuine masters of their own country – its land, its wealth and, most importantly – its government,” read a party manifesto distributed to journalists.

A Levada Center opinion poll carried out last December indicated that 69 percent of Russians agree to some extent or another with the nationalist slogan “Russia for Russians.” Another 62 percent supported the slogan “Stop Feeding the Caucasus!” a reference to generous Kremlin funding of the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, which includes Chechnya.

Tensions have been exacerbated by clashes in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg between ethnic Russians and youths from the North Caucasus, as well as by mass immigration from impoverished former Soviet Central Asian republics such as Tajikistan. Racial violence led to the deaths of 21 people of “non-Slavic appearance” in 2011, a decline from 42 in 2010, according to the Sova organization, which monitors race-hate attacks in Russia.

Anti-corruption blogger and opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny has frequently expressed nationalist sentiments and attends the annual Russian March, organized in part by both Krylov and Tor. He has also been invited to join the National Democratic Party’s supervisory board. “We are holding talks of a positive, constructive character with him,” Tor told RIA Novosti by telephone later on Thursday. The party looks to bring together Krylov’s Russian Public Movement, Tor’s Movement Against Illegal Immigration, and the Russian Civil Union led by Anton Susov, as well as a number of other organizations.

Dressed in sharp suits and ties, both Krylov and Tor were keen to stress the party’s distance from traditional images of skinheads and swastikas and highlight the “democratic” aspect of the party’s name. “We want to create a classic, European national-democratic party,” Krylov said. “We share democratic values and believe democracy needs to be restored to Russia.” “The Russian nationalist movement has been almost entirely cleansed of the so-called skinhead elements,” he said.

And analysts suggested the party’s prospects were good, if it gains registration. “Nationalism is a political trend in demand whose ideas have been used even by Putin, who has called himself a ‘Russian nationalist,'” said analyst Alexei Mukhin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information think tank. “The nationalist movement has been boosted by this.”

Putin has described himself as a nationalist on a number of occasions, and in January pledged in a pre-election article to crack down on “aggressive, provocative and disrespectful” internal migrants who fail to respect “the customs of the Russian people.” But he also warned against the promotion of the idea of the creation of a “mono-ethnic, national Russian state,” calling it “the shortest path to both the destruction of the Russian people and Russia’s sovereignty.”

“Judging by Russia’s nationalist-orientated electorate, it’s natural that the possibility for such a party exists,” said analyst Lilia Shevtsova of the Moscow-based Carnegie Center. “But the success of the party will depend not only on the electorate, but also the authorities. The Ministry of Justice could disband the party at any time.”

Reforms on party registration has led experts to suggest a host of parties with similar names and aims could appear as soon as Medvedev approves the relaxing of regulations and it appears the National Democratic Party may face competition for the hearts and minds of the country’s nationalists. “It will be good if there are lots of nationalist parties,” Dmitry Dyomushkin, the leader of Russia's outlawed Slavyansky Soyuz nationalist movement, told RIA Novosti by telephone. “That way it will be harder to fight against us.” “I don’t mean any disrespect to our colleagues, but our party will be bigger,” he said. Dyomushkin’s potential party has yet to settle on a name.

National Democratic Party leaders hit out at a number of occasions on Thursday at the Kremlin’s funding of the North Caucasus and proposed the region’s “golden thread” of financial support be cut off. Krylov said budget spending on average on residents of the North Caucasus was ten times higher than spending on ethnic citizens. “North Caucasus people are perfectly capable people, who are able to work,” said Krylov. “It’s insulting to them to even suggest otherwise.”

But the head of the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus dismissed claims that the volatile region was being “overfed” by the Kremlin “Nationalists just take these figures without examining them,” said Aliy Totorkulov. “A lot of the money supposedly bound for the Caucasus doesn’t end up there at all due to money-laundering.” “You only have to visit the region to see how people live,” he said. “Many people can’t find work, that’s why they are forced to move to Moscow.”

UKRAINE | Jewish man in critical condition after nazi assault

Tuesday, 10 April 2012, 12:37 | Source: Haaretz |

A Jewish man is in critical condition after being assaulted by a neo-Nazi gang in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the city's Jewish community reported on Monday, as local police attempted to determine the motivation behind the incident. According to Jewish community representatives, an ultra-Orthodox student by the name of Aharon Alexander, 25, was attacked by skinheads near Kiev's central synagogue.

However, despite the assertion by Kiev's Jewish community leaders that Alexander's wounds were the result of an anti-Semitic attack, local police officials indicated that the investigation was ongoing, and they were also looking into the possibility that the young Haredi tripped in the street.

At first, Alexander was reportedly missing for nearly 24 hours, until a doctor sent by the Jewish community was able to identify him in one of the city's hospitals. Alexander, following head surgery, was said to be in critical condition. Other than a severe injury to his head, the Jewish man also reportedly suffered bruises in his upper body.

Following the incident, a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday participated by chief rabbi of the Ukrainian Jewish community Moshe Reuven Asman, Israel's ambassador to the country Reuven Diner, and the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Yanukovich. Speaking with Haaretz, the head of Kiev's Jewish community Yaakov Zilberman said that the community was "disturbed by the assault" and intends to "act against a cover-up of incident as well as of the rise in anti-Semitism."

In a statement released following the incident, the European Jewish Congress said they were "confident that the Ukrainian authorities will act swiftly against the perpetrators of this hate crime and will bring them to swift justice.” “We call on European leaders to act swiftly to strengthen legislation, bolster education and increase intelligence sharing to prevent what could become a tsunami of hate and violence against the Jews of Europe,” the statement said.

Last month, a Jewish group said that a Holocaust memorial has been vandalized in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Oleksandr Nazar of the city's Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Center said that unknown assailants smeared red and blue paint over the memorial in central Lviv. He said the vandals also wrote a statement on the memorial which "humiliates both Jews and Ukrainians."

Nazar said on Friday that activists have cleaned off most of the paint and that Lviv police have launched an investigation. Lviv, a vibrant center of Jewish life before the Holocaust, is now home to a few thousand Jews, according to Nazar. Some 1.4 million of Soviet Ukraine's 2.4 million Jews were executed, starved to death or died of disease during World War II.

HUNGARY | Jobbik and Christian Democrat youth wing demand removal of Soviet war memorial

Tuesday, 10 April 2012, 12:34 | Source: Hope not hate/ |

4 April was the anniversary of the day the Red Army pushed the Nazi Wehrmacht and SS out of Hungary in 1945.

On each anniversary, the presence of the Soviet War Memorial in Szabadság tér is brought up, for while the Red Army did liberate Hungary from the Nazis, it quickly became an occupying army that stayed for nearly fifty years.

On the occasion of the anniversary, both the nazi Jobbik and the youth wing of the Christian Democrats asked for the memorial’s relocation. Previous attempts to remove the memorial were met with stiff resistance from Russia.

Although current treaties allow for its relocation, it would still need Moscow’s blessing. Moscow has in the past said it would remove memorials to Hungarian war dead in Russia if the Szabadság tér memorial is removed without their agreement, and has even resisted calls to change the sentence on the memorial from “Glory to the liberating Soviet heroes” to “In memory of the Soviet soldiers who fell in the battle against fascism.”

The issue is worth noting not only because Jobbik strongly opposes the memorial yet argues for closer ties with Russia, but also because of the renovations currently ongoing at Kossuth tér three hundred meters away, which also includes statue removals.

CZECH REPUBLIC | Nazis outnumbered by counter-protesters at Chanov housing estate by two to one

Tuesday, 10 April 2012, 12:16 | Source: |

Ultra-right extremists from the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and neo-Nazis from the National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) carried out their provocation ton Saturday at the Chanov housing estate on the outskirts of Most, which is predominantly occupied by Romani people.

Organisers expected between 100 - 200 participants, while other estimates had predicted as many as 300, but in the end the extremists' march was a total debacle, with only 50 -70 ultra-right radicals attending. Approximately 150 Romani people held a disciplined protest against them at the housing estate. News server reported on the events online as they unfolded.

For online reporting, see:

CZECH REPUBLIC | Opponents of nazis will not blockade DSSS march but will hang banners instead

Saturday, 7 April 2012, 16:01 | Source: |

Activists from the initiative Hate is No Solution do not intend to blockade tomorrow's march through the Chanov housing estate by ultra-right extremists from the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and neo-Nazis from the National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO). Miroslav Bro× told the Czech Press Agency today that those opposed to neo-Nazism, together with local Romani residents, will express their rejection of the neo-Nazi provocation in other ways. Right-wing extremists anticipate between 100 and 200 marchers, while other estimates say there could be as many as 300 people. Police are planning massive security measures. Ludmila Světláková, spokesperson for the Czech Police in Most, told the Czech Press Agency that police do not yet want to release precise data about the number of forces to be deployed.

One year ago, ultra-right extremists and neo-Nazis marched through the Horní Maršov housing estate in Krupka. The march was permitted, but a crowd of local residents and other opponents of neo-Nazism immediately blocked the entrance to the housing estate. When the crowd refused to back down, it was brutally dispersed by mounted police wielding nightsticks and stun grenades. The maneuvers were a repetition of an equally brutal police action in Nový Byd×ov earlier that year during which mounted officers galloped into a gathering of peaceful counter-protesters at top speed.

"This, however, is a different situation. The people living at Maršov were used to the neo-Nazi actions, but this is the first such march at Chanov. The residents there will be very shaken by it," Bro× told the Czech Press Agency. That is reportedly why no one will be attempting to block the march. "We will not be scuffling with them or blockading the march in any way. We just want to support the locals at this difficult time so they see that not all gadje [non-Romani people] are the same. What we regret most is that the children's Easter will be ruined by this," said Bro×.

For the time being it is not clear how many local Romani people support the protest against the DSSS. Some intend to ignore the neo-Nazi provocation and stay home. Representatives of the police strongly recommended that approach to them at a meeting on Wednesday.

Police don't want to speculate on how they will be addressing the situation. "Our forces will correspond to the situation, but those estimates keep developing, so for the time being we can't even tell you the precise number of officers to be deployed," Světláková told the Czech Press Agency. She did say the number of officers would be roughly the same as the number of marchers. "There will also be an anti-conflict team, detectives, officers from district departments, patrol officers and traffic police involved," she said. For the time being there are no plans to use a police helicopter.

In the case of last year's march through Krupka, the pretext was a year-old incident that had taken place in the spring of 2010 during which two Romani minors beat up and raped a non-Romani boy from a children's home near the town. This time, the officially stated reason for the DSSS provocation is an incident that occurred not quite three weeks ago during which a police officer was injured while searching for a wanted person in a derelict building at the housing estate.

ITALY | Bossi quits amid scandal accusations

Saturday, 7 April 2012, 15:56 | Source: Malta Today |

Umberto Bossi, the firebrand leader of Italy's opposition Northern League party, has resigned after allegations that taxpayers' money was used to pay for renovations at his villa and holidays for his children, the party has said.

The move, announced at a meeting of the league's federal council in Milan, is likely to destabilise the populist, anti-immigration party, weakening one of the main political forces opposing Prime Minister Mario Monti's austerity programme in parliament.

Earlier this week, prosecutors placed Francesco Belsito, the party's treasurer, and two other officials under investigation over accusations of fraud and illegal party financing.

Belsito allegedly used the party's funds to pay for the personal expenses of Bossi's sons, including travel, dinners, hotel accommodation and expensive cars, as well as improvements to the leader's house.

Bossi, 70, is not under investigation and has denied ever using the party's money for his or his family's benefit.

The Northern League (Lega Nord) is the only party in opposition to the current technocratic government led by Prime Minister Mario Monti.

News of Bossi's resignation emerged on Thursday, with no comment from the leader himself.

Bossi has been one of the most colourful figures on the Italian political stage, coming to prominence on a separatist platform, our correspondent says.

In fiery speeches he frequently criticised "the corrupt and lazy South" for draining hard-earned wealth away from the North.

Bossi once described the European Union as a nest of communist bankers and freemasons.

Despite the rhetoric, the Northern League formed coalition governments with the right-wing parties supporting the governments of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Following his resignation the party instantly gave him the honorary position of president.

Bossi's resignation is likely to open a power struggle within the league, and could pave the way for the emergence of Roberto Maroni, the former interior minister, as a new leader.

A party statement said on Thursday that Maroni, together with two other senior party officials, will temporarily lead the league until a congress of the federal council is held by the autumn.

Maroni, popular grass-root supporters, has condemned the scandal and called for a thorough clean-up within the party.

RUSSIA | Spartak Moscow creates fund to fight racism

Wednesday, 4 April 2012, 21:57 | Source: Novosti |

Spartak Moscow owner Leonid Fedun has announced that his club is financing a programme aimed at stamping out racism and anti-Semitism in the Russian game.

Russian football has been blighted by isolated yet persistent episodes of racism in recent years, including the throwing of bananas at dark-skinned players such as Anzhi pair Roberto Carlos and Christopher Samba.

The issue touched Spartak on Saturday after their Nigerian striker Emanuel Emenike showed the middle finger to Zenit fans whom he accused of racist chanting during the Muscovites' 2-1 league defeat.

Fedun said on the club's website that he was unveiling an anti-xenophobia foundation.

"This foundation will first of all will conduct special public actions aimed at instilling a good atmosphere in the stands of Russian stadiums," Fedun said. "So that the fans even during the most hard-core chanting don't revert to national and race issues."

He vowed that "every home game" would feature his anti-xenophobia drive, though stopped short of describing what it might involve.

Spartak supporters are notorious for containing radical ultranationalist elements.

In late 2010, thousands descended on the Kremlin chanting racist slogans in protest at police inaction over the killing of one of the club's supporters allegedly by people from the Caucasus.

Fedun, meanwhile, took the opportunity to fire a barb at Zenit St. Petersburg for an alleged policy of refusing to sign black players, while criticizing the club for failing to stop its fans from provoking Emenike.

"Every club forms its own transfer policy," Fedun said. "I want to accentuate something else: Whatever the composition of the club, no one releases it from the obligation of working with the fans to fight xenophobia in the stands."

The Russian Football Union said late last month it had assembled a dedicated taskforce to tackle racism in the country, which is set to host the 2018 World Cup

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko told RIA Novosti he doesn't view the country's problems with racism in football as hopeless.

"I don't see any hopelessness in it [the situation]," Mutko said. "The process of preparing for the World Cup will force through solutions to these problems."

"Fans, cities, stadiums and society will all get involved, ... and the championship itself, in the course of its preparations, will try to solve these issues one by one."

Mutko threw his weight behind an anti-racism program unveiled this week by Spartak Moscow owner Leonid Fedun.

"I agree with Fedun that clubs should take an active position. They shouldn't shout at someone: 'Hey you, officials, solve this problem, pass some law or something!' You write the laws, you study the experience," Mutko advised the Russian Premier League clubs.

GERMANY | Germany's Far-Right Turns to Environmentalism

Tuesday, 3 April 2012, 22:43 | Source: |

Environmentalists are often associated with the political left. But now neo-Nazis have discovered nature's charms too. In addition to selling organic vegetables and publishing a magazine on the environment, Germany's far-right NPD party has co-opted green campaign issues. Party members use it as a dubious means to make the NPD more socially acceptable.

Jens Lütke opposes genetic engineering and the expansion of roads. He also protests against the construction of new power plants and volunteers once a year at an environmental action day. "I often get asked if I'm a member of the Green Party," he says. But Lütke doesn't support the environmentalist party -- he backs the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). He's the party's top candidate for state parliament in elections in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein to be held this May.

When Lütke collects trash as a volunteer on an environmental action day, it's hard to tell which party he belongs to. "We don't bring an NPD banner with us when we participate," he says. Still, he isn't alone within the party with his efforts on behalf of the environment. The party regularly coopts the issue of environmentalism in an insidious attempt to make the party more acceptable in German society. Often, it's difficult to recognize the right-wing extremist ideologies behind these efforts.

The tactic is visible in an environmental affairs magazine published by right-wing extremists entitled Umwelt & Aktiv, or "Environment & Active," which resembles a normal magazine focusing on the environment -- at least at first glance. And although the publication's articles on biofuels, genetic engineering, gardening tips and children's songs may seem legitimate, further examination yields pages on Germanic myths and pagan rites. Under the heading "homeland security," readers of last year's March edition learn that the German people will perish both biologically and spiritually if they procreate with people of other ethnic origins.

The so-called environmental magazine also stirs up hatred about religion, claiming that the slaughter of animals without anesthesia is the barbaric custom of Jews and Muslims. "So that all migrants feel at home," the January 2007 issue reports, other "religion-based customs" such as genital mutilation, stoning and hand amputation from the "Orient" could also be imported into the country.

Even though the editorial staff describes itself as "politically independent," this kind of nasty, right-wing extremist propaganda crops up repeatedly. And a closer look at the people who produce Umwelt & Aktiv shows just how dubious that claim is. The masthead includes the Midgard e.V. association, which the southern German city of Landshut's municipal court lists as having members with NPD connections.

Among them are board member and publisher Christoph Hofer, who has held two official NPD positions in Bavaria. Then there is the organization's secretary and the magazine's head editor Berthild Haese, whose husband Peter Haese was the head of the NPD's Lower Bavaria chapter and regularly runs in elections as a party candidate, most recently in federal parliamentary election in 2009.

The magazine's editorial staff have also been known communicate internally using NPD email addresses, according to documents published by the anti-Nazi website Nazi-Leaks. Writers for the publication also include party supporters and officials, and ads are used to sell books from the NPD publisher Deutsche Stimme, or "German Voice," with titles like "Race, Evolution and Behavior". Meanwhile, some passages from the first edition in 2007 are lifted from the NPD's own party platforms almost verbatim. One section reads: "German landscapes are cultural landscapes. Thus, environmental protection fundamentally cannot be viewed separately from cultural development." It's the first line of the NPD's environmental policy.

Bavaria, where Umwelt & Aktiv is based, is the focal point of the far-right environmental drive, but other states are also home to "green" Nazis. The NPD is particularly active on environmental issues in the eastern coastal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. As far back as 2007, a farmer and NPD member made headlines with a campaign against genetic engineering. And Udo Pastörs, a member of the state's parliament and deputy leader of the national party, is known for his nature conservation efforts.

Even outside the party there are right-wing extremist environmentalists in the northern state, near Güstrow and Teterow. Since the 1990s farmers who follow the tradition of the Artaman League, an agrarian movement stemming from the 1920s that adheres to a "blood and soil" ideology and was closely associated with the Nazi party. These settlers have been spreading into other areas too, according to an expert for the NPD-critical organization in the state, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Völkische Siedler, or "Working Group for Racial Settlers." Most of them take an active role in village life, getting involved in schools and childcare facilities, the expert, who asked not to be identified by name in this article, says. And many also produce and sell organic products.

The NPD has long adopted environmental issues in its efforts to gain voter support. The party referred to it as early on as in its 1973 "Düsseldorf Program," which described environmental protection as a contribution to public health. But it was first with the professionalization of the party in recent years that the issue has been catapulted to the forefront.

In its current party platforms, the NPD rejects both genetic engineering and large-scale industrial livestock farming, in addition to calling for greater government spending on alternative energies and national self-sufficiency for agricultural products. Farmers need more support, they say.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the NPD has also printed posters that read "Umweltschutz = Heimatschutz," or "Environmental Protection = Homeland Protection." And Jens Lütke also plans to use environmental themes as one of the main issues in his campaign as an NPD candidate for the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament, even if the primary topic he will address is criticism of the euro. "We don't want to leave the green topics to the Green Party," he says.

Umwelt & Aktiv sums up the approach on the last page of its first issue, published at the beginning of 2007. "Environmental protection is not green," it says.

CZECH REPUBLIC | Czech right-wing extremists charged over bomb attack plans

Tuesday, 3 April 2012, 22:36 | |

Eight men and one woman aged between 22 and 37 arrested in raids across the Czech Republic last week have been charged with planning attacks against specific people and buildings, the anti-organized crime unit (ÚOOZ) announced Tuesday, without revealing more information about the intended targets. Two of those detained are also suspected of carrying out racially motivated arson attacks.

“If the attacks had been carried out, they could have led to the disruption of the functioning of the state,” ÚOOZ spokesman Pavel Hanták told Czech Position. The suspects have not, however, been charged with planning a terrorist attack, he said.

Czech police announced Tuesday on their website that the charges so far lodged against the suspects are primarily for propagating racial hatred and inciting violence. ‘[They are suspected of planning so-called ‘direct action’ against their opponents, state representatives and democratic organs ...’

“Members of the group are suspected of planning so-called ‘direct action’ against their opponents, state representatives and democratic organs of the Czech Republic. The organization gave information about these activities on its web pages,” the police said in the statement.

According to ÚOOZ detectives, the right-wing extremists charged with planning the attacks helped found the Czech branches of the extreme right-wing organizations Blood & Honour, and its militant wing Combat 18, which were founded in the UK in the early 1990s and now have several branches or associated organizations in mainland Europe and the US.

“The members of Blood & Honour Division Bohemia will also have to explain the illegally held rifles and pistols, instructions for the manufacture of explosives, materials for their manufacture, and industrially produced devices for their ignition,” ÚOOZ spokesman Pavel Hanták told reporters on Tuesday.

Knives, knuckle dusters, telescopic truncheons, illegal Nazi insignia and extreme-right wing propaganda materials were also seized by the police in the raids last week.

Two of those charged with inciting hatred and violence have also been charged with so-called common endangerment on suspicion of carrying out an arson attack on a boarding house, occupied almost exclusively by Romany, in the town of Ašin the far northwest of the Czech Republic at the end of February, and a fire at a restaurant in the Kunratice forest in Prague at the end of 2011. These two suspects are aged 32 and 22 and are from Aš, police reported.

ÚOOZ detectives and the public prosecution applied for six of the suspects to be remanded in custody, but the district court of Prague 1 rejected the application and released them on bail.

EUROPE | Extremism by the numbers

Tuesday, 3 April 2012, 22:23 | Source: GlobalPost |

UKRAINE | Ukraine's nationalist party embraces Nazi ideology

Tuesday, 3 April 2012, 22:18 | Source: GlobalPost |

Meet Svoboda, an up-and-coming party in Ukraine. It's nationalist, pro-Nazi, and poised for the parliament.

In this great city of western Ukraine, the worst of the European experience is creeping back into democratic politics.

In L’viv, it comes under the guise of Svoboda, a party calling for a Ukraine that is “one race, one nation, one Fatherland.” Originally known as the Social-National Party, it is rooted in Nazi collaboration.

This wasn't supposed to happen. In 2004, following a disputed national election, the Orange Revolution, a peaceful campaign of protest, swept a coalition of moderate nationalist politicians into power. They quickly fell out among themselves. A blizzard of allegations of corruption swirled around them. One of the original leaders of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, is in prison, convicted of "abuse of office,” although rights groups say her incarceration is politically motivated.

From journalists, cab drivers and young entrepreneurs, to peasant women who run market stalls to supplement their state pension by selling homemade cheese and pickles, everyone says the same thing: the politicians of all parties are only in it for themselves, grabbing every penny they can. Meanwhile, Svoboda has grown in popularity. Young people are drawn to the nationalist rhetoric, and older supporters are more used to life under the kind of authoritarian views it holds.

Svoboda is now the largest party on L'viv city council and in the regional council. It has taken power in other major urban centers of western Ukraine, like Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk. Come this October, when the country holds elections, Svoboda is expected to make the jump to the next level and win seats in the Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament, for the first time.

Besides disappointment with the main democratic parties and endemic corruption around the country, Svoboda's rise underscores a swell of anti-Semitism in a part of the world where the Holocaust was at its fiercest and there are virtually no Jews left. It is a symptom of an ultra-nationalism all along the eastern borders of Europe. This extreme form of racially based nationalism links Soviet Communism and Jewishness together. The patriotic fight against the former leads to Nazi-glorification and an excusing of local fighters roles in helping to murder Jews during the Holocaust.

Svoboda’s success so far has been built on a skilled public-relations campaign, complete with videos re-enacting Nazi propaganda tropes like torchlight parades and speeches that echo Hitler. Svoboda also honors Ukraine veterans who fought with the Nazis in a unit known as the Waffen SS-Galicia against the Soviet Army and the threat of what they refer to as “Jew Communism.”

They deal in gesture politics, changing the name of Peace Street, in an outlying district of L'viv to Nachtigall Street, in honor of a Ukrainian group that was implicated in a massacre of the city's Jews after the Nazis arrived in June and July 1941. Svoboda's reason: "Peace Street is a holdover from Soviet stereotypes." Their political demonstrations frequently turn violent. Last September in Uman, Hasidic Jews on annual pilgrimage were confronted by Svoboda activists. The two groups were separated by police. The Svoboda contingent then attacked the cops. Dozens were arrested.

Last month, German historian Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, was forced to cancel lectures around Ukraine after receiving calls from people threatening to harm him, as well as being followed by hundreds of Svoboda supporters wherever he went. His crime: lecturing on Stepan Bandera, leader of an ultra-nationalist group during World War II, a fascist responsible for many atrocities against non-ethnic Ukrainians. For Svoboda, Bandera is a hero.

The person organizing the demonstrations and making the firebrand speeches is Yuri Michalchyshyn. At 29, he is barely old enough to remember the bad old days when Ukraine was under Soviet rule. He speaks a romantic nationalist language rarely spoken by mainstream western politicians. "A nation is an organic thing, historically defined. A wave of passionate energy which unites past, present and future generations," Michalchyshn said, seated in the office of Iryna Sekh, his party's leader at the regional council. "The Ukrainian nation is the current territory of the Ukraine reinforced by language and recent history of social and national struggle."

Watch video from a torchlight march organized by Michalchyshyn below

Svoboda's racial theorizing is built on sand, since most people who live in the region have mixed blood. "Ethnically, Ukraine doesn't exist," according to Ukrainian historian Andriy Kozitzky. The western part of the country nestled up against Poland and Hungary is a mix of many groups: Russian, Ukrainians, Armenians. That’s irrelevant to Svoboda followers. Mychalchyshyn said: "We are against diversity.” In his writings, he says, "We consider tolerance a crime."

The young ideologue promises a parliament composed of Ukrainians voted for by Ukrainians. Minorities will be given seats based on their proportion of the population. But they won't be able to vote. His supporters also like his promise to get Ukraine's nuclear weapons back. When the Soviet Union collapsed the nuclear weapons based in Ukraine were returned to Russia or were decommissioned. "It's a mentality," said Mridula Ghosh, a sociologist who works for the East European Development Institute in Kiev. "Svoboda is anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic."

It would be comforting to write Svoboda off as a morbid symptom of a country moving away from 70 years of the bloodiest conflicts in European history and Yuri Michalchyshyn as a young loudmouth. That is difficult to do. The party speaks directly to its constituents' fears about Russia and its anger about corruption in the national government. Svoboda has also tapped into fervent anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine, which persists even among those who don’t agree with Nazi ideology. During World War II, Ukraine was overrun by the Soviets as they pushed into Europe. Amid that turmoil, Bandera emerged as a controversial figure to lead a violent Ukrainian independence fight against the Soviets.

In 1943, the Nazis established a Ukrainian division of their feared SS, known as the Waffen SS-Galicia, as the western part of the country was known as the time. Bandera’s men first collaborated with the Nazis against the Soviets, and then later waged a sporadic guerilla war against the USSR. But his group also launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing in western Ukraine against Polish villagers, beginning in 1943. Priests were beheaded and crucified, men were disemboweled, women gang-raped. Families were locked into wooden barns and the buildings set on fire.

The terror worked. The area was ethnically cleansed as Poles fled the region. Cementing his hero status for Svoboda adherents, Bandera was later assassinated by the KGB. In 2010, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko named Bandera a hero of the Ukraine. A year later, his successor Viktor Yanukovych, who is perceived to have close ties to the Kremlin, revoked the honor, underscoring the concern many Ukranians have about Russian interference in their government.

Even for nationalists who don’t agree with Nazi ideology, Bandera remains an inspiration.

Historians of World War II say the lines between the Waffen SS-Galicia and the various partisan groups associated with Bandera are blurred, and that all groups can be implicated in the massacres.

Not everyone in L'viv buys the Svoboda line. Last May, at Victory Day celebrations marking the defeat of the Nazis, a near riot broke out when Sekh, the Svoboda regional leader, and a group of supporters turned up. Police had to separate Sekh and her young acolytes from those who had turned up to simply mark the defeat of the Nazis. "We were afraid there would be Red flags. We were protecting our history and culture." There was much pushing, shoving and fist-fighting with the police in the middle. With a touch of the melodramatic, Sekh says she spent the next few months carrying her pajamas and toothrush with her everywhere because she expected to be arrested for instigating a riot. Charges were never filed against her.

Nationalism still appeals to Ukrainians such as Myroslav Marynovych, a 63-year-old vice-rector at the Greek Catholic University. After World War II, Marynovych spent years in a Soviet gulag for demanding the right to discuss Ukranian national history. There, he met several men who had fought with Bandera’s group and the Waffen-SS Galicia. He said that he doesn’t agree with nationalist extremism, but that in the circumstances of World War II he can't condemn it completely.

“I defend their patriotism, but not their methods," he said. Meanwhile, he tries to influence debate via his position at the university, taking part in acts of reconciliation with the tiny Jewish community that remains in L'viv and, as in his dissident days, writing letters to the editor of Svoboda-supporting newspapers. Most recently, he challenged an article they published written by a Holocaust denier.

At the L'viv headquarters of Viktor Yanukovych's ruling "Party of Regions," they acknowledge their policies are a hard sell to the voters.

The local deputy leader Laura Arzumanivna Arzumanyan, of Armenian heritage, is philosophical. It's all part of the scientific processes of history. "The fact that Svoboda appeared is something that had to happen," Arzumanyan said.

"Let me ask you, how old is America?" she answers her own question, "200 years old. You are a very old country. We are only 20 years old. You had Ku Klux Klan. You passed through that time. This is something we must go through.”

HUNGARY | Antisemitism takes the stage in Hungary

Tuesday, 3 April 2012, 22:13 | Source: GlobalPost |

First went the director, then the prima donna.

A political tug-of-war over an historic theater in the Hungarian capital has reignited concerns about growing anti-Semitism in this Eastern European nation.

Budapest’s picturesque New Theater has long been a popular mainstay among the local cultured and urbane, who tend to be disproportionately liberal and include many of the local Jewish community. But recently, a series of firings and resignations have left the popular theater in the hands of avowed anti-Semites, sparking protests and political violence.

The deterioration of the storied theater highlights an emerging trend of rising neo-Nazi sentiment in parts of Eastern Europe. Cloaked in nationalism, the ideology has gained new traction amid Europe’s economic crisis, which far-right politicians have sought to blame on Jews and other ethnic minorities such as the Roma. Those ideas are particularly disturbing to many here, in a country where the second highest number of Jews in Europe were murdered during World War II, and from where the highest number of Roma were transported to Nazi death camps.

Hungary's small Jewish community was nearly eliminated during World War II. Since the beginning of the year, Jews — along with other national minorities — have once again been excluded from the Hungarian constitution's definition of the "Hungarian people." New research from Central European University shows that the number of Hungarians with anti-Semitic views has risen from 14 percent to 24 percent since 2006.

"Ever since the [euro zone debt] crisis in 2009, they've been asking, who's responsible for the crisis? Banks and bankers. And who are they? Jews," said Robert Frohlich, the chief rabbi at Budapest's central Dohany Street Synagogue.

Frohlich was referring to Jobbik, a vocal, neo-fascist political party that he says blames Hungary's Jewish community in messages that are both "encoded and direct." Jobbik is the most popular far-right party in Europe today. It is opposed to big banks and the European Union, and has gained popularity with vehement attacks on the country’s Roma minority. About one-quarter of Hungarian voters currently support Jobbik, making it the second most popular party in Hungary.

The party has been growing in the polls ever since Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz won office two years ago. Fidesz, which has a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament, has changed the political climate in the country, perhaps irrevocably. It passed the new constitution emphasizing Hungarian ethnic identity. Meanwhile, the conservative party has fought with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union over political changes perceived as anti-democratic elsewhere on the continent. And it has failed to improve the Hungarian economic situation, which remains dire — fostering the growth of Jobbik, some opponents assert.

At the New Theater, though, former and current employees and some theater patrons say that the shift toward anti-Semitism has been a combination of the subtle and overt messages from the conservative parties.

For a decade, Istvan Marta, a 60-year old Hungarian composer, ran the New Theater, staging adaptations of Western European classics, from Shakespeare to Schiller.

But earlier this year, he was forced to step down after his contract wasn't renewed in November by the Budapest City Council, which is dominated by the ruling party, Fidesz. The city council, as the owner of the theater, has been required since the end of the communist era to choose directors for its theaters for four-year tenures. In the past, whenever a director proved to be successful at the job, the contract extension has been automatic.

New applicants for the job were usually only considered if the theater was either in deep debt or if the council was dissatisfied with the artistic performance of the theater.

In Marta’s case neither of the scenarios occurred — the theater was doing well, both financially and artistically.

Even so, a well-known former politician and playwright, Istvan Csurka, was initially appointed artistic director at the theater last November. Csurka was ardently pro-Jobbik.

But Csurka never took up his job at the New Theater. He was forced to retract his nomination after he wrote a rant against Hungarian-American financier George Soros saying that Soros’ projects in Hungary "only serve to keep a well defined section of the Jewish community in power."

Without a contract extension, Marta then stepped down in February, even though an independent panel set up to assess the situation recommended to the mayor that he stay.

Budapest’s mayor replaced him with Gyorgy Dorner, a dramatist notorious for his anti-Semitic views and an outspoken campaigner for Jobbik. The appointment has sparked outrage in the arts scene, and among the Jewish community and other left-leaning Hungarians.

The mayor, István Tarlós, didn’t respond to GlobalPost’s requests for comment. But last month, he told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,"I won’t let the New Theater become a stage for far right or anti-Semitic forces in Hungary.”

At the New Theater, the change has been marked. Actors, theatergoers and sponsors have since walked away from the once popular theater — as well as its popular prima donna, Lia Pokorni.

"Leaving Budapest's New Theater was a strong setback for me but I just couldn't stay," said Pokorni, who is of Jewish heritage. “[I] could not work with a director who is so strongly associated with radical right-wing theories and emotions.”

Since January, a number of theater personnel have lost their jobs, as the new management – in agreement with the owner, the Budapest City Council did not extend their contracts. Several of those let go are of Jewish origin while others refuse to disclose their religious or ethnic background.

Others left because they believed they would be targeted next, staff insiders say. One, who asked that that his name not be published because of ongoing contract negotiations, said he worries about his job because he believes that his religion now plays a role in the new director’s employment decisions.

This employee said that Dorner told him that from now on, the theater would only employ people who “fear and believe in God.”

"It was never really a question of whether I believed in God or not,” the man said of the exchange. “Rather, I think he just wanted to hint at my Jewish origins, which I did not want to discuss at all."

The changes have also sparked political violence.

Clashes outside the theater in early February pitted neo-Nazis against liberal demonstrators in which dozens were injured. Hungary’s far right, which overwhelmingly supports the theater’s new management, has fought against the growing anti-government protest movement in the central European country — and Budapest’s cultural scene — since the beginning of the year.

"I have no doubt about the type of plays the new director will put on the stage," said Katalin Nemeth, a pensioner who has been a season ticketholder at the New Theater for years, but has not bought a ticket this month.

Dorner, who once was the voice of Bruce Willis and Eddy Murphy in many Hungarian movies, calls himself a “radical nationalist,” and says he wants foreign influences off the stage.

“I want to see Hungarian plays being brought onto the stage for Hungarian crowds to cheer," Dorner said in an interview with a local paper.

He has publicly said his vision for the New Theater involves "cutting in on the leftist and Jewish dominated populated theater scene.”

Dorner also plans to stage a play by Csurka, the man initially appointed to run the theater’s artistic program, who has since died. The play, “The Sixth Coffin,” deals with Trianon, the treaty agreed after World War One that left Hungary with just one-third of its former territory.

It is a subject that infuriates Hungary’s neighbors, Slovakia, Romania, the Ukraine and Serbia because they fear Hungarian territorial expansion due to the large Hungarian minorities still living in their countries.

But Dorner has few qualms about raising the subject or doing more to provoke. Recently, he promised to rename the theater “Hatorszag” (Hinterland), a concept, critics say, invokes Hungarian claims on its neighbors’ territory. Budapest’s mayor vetoed the suggestion, but the idea lingers.

Dorner also fired the theater’s lead actor Balazs Galko. While Galko had been silent on political issues, he has been a regular at anti-government demonstrations. These days, Galko recounts how, after he was fired, he was told rather amiably by Dorner that he should not expect to get a job in the Budapest cultural scene in the future.

Dorner's actions outraged Galko, he says. In January, Dorner took to the stage at a demonstration held by Jobbik, and stood next to the party's leader, Gabor Vona, as party members torched a European Union flag.

"This is our message to the European Union if it does indeed want to colonize us: [EU Commission President Manual] Barroso thinks we are idiots, and he treats us like that too — and we won’t take it,” Vona said at the event.

“It made me feel uneasy when I saw Dorner was present at the burning of the European flag," said Galko. "And I wanted to keep my job but I could not just overlook these disturbing changes.”

SWEDEN | Malm÷ mayor's future 'hangs in the balance'

Monday, 2 April 2012, 19:44 | Source: |

Social Democrats in Malmö say Ilmar Reepalu is an "embarrassment" to the party and that his future as the city's mayor may be in jeopardy following recent comments labelled as "anti-Semitic" by Sweden's Jewish community.

Reepalu sparked a scandal last week in an interview with liberal-leaning magazine NEO in which he discussed the "strong ties" between the Jewish community and the Sweden Democrats, a political party with a clear anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim line which has its roots in Sweden's neo-Nazi movement.

According to Reepalu, "Sweden Democrats have infiltrated the Jewish community in order to push their hate of Muslims".

While he later admitted he had “no basis” for the claims, party colleagues fear that his latest comments may have already put his future as Malmö mayor in doubt.

"Reepalu has damaged the party with his comments. It is an embarrassment and very bad for the party," Milan Obradovic, a Social Democrat on Malmö’s local council, tells The Local.

"If this were to happen again then he would probably have to resign."

Last weekend’s election of a new chair of Malmö’s Social Democrats was dominated by discussions over Reepalu’s remarks, which have infuriated the Jewish community.

Obradovic says young Social Democrats in particular have turned their back on the city’s 68-year old mayor.

"Many young people said they felt Reepalu’s comments were racist and that he doesn’t represent them. Older members of the party know Reepalu well and know that he isn’t a racist," he says.

"He has done a lot of tremendous work for the city but that can get forgotten when he says things like this. What he said was totally unacceptable."

Obradovic explains that Reepalu can't simply defend the comments as a "misunderstanding" or by claiming his views don't represent those of the Social Democrats.

“Even if he was making these comments as a private individual, as a politician you are always representing the party when you do interviews," he says.

"He needs to think before he speaks in future."

Joakim Sandell, the newly elected chair of the Social Democrats in Malmö, says he was stunned when he learned of Reepalu's comments, which prompted Jewish leaders to write an angry letter to party head Stefan Löfven demanding action.

“When I read what he had said I couldn’t believe it," Sandell tells The Local. "As a politician it is never good if you have to apologize for your comments but what he said was inappropriate."

Sandell adds it was right for Reepalu to apologize, but dares not speculate as to what would have happened if Reepalu hadn’t reacted.

Regardless, Sandell plans on taking up the matter at next week’s emergency talks with Löfven and goes on to emphasize that Reepalu has done a lot for the city, despite the numerous public gaffes which have shattered his reputation among Jews in Malmö and elsewhere.

“Reepalu is a good politician who has done fine work for Malmö and our party. I think most people still have confidence in him," says Sandell.

Meanwhile journalist Paulina Neuding, who conducted the interview with Reepalu published in the liberal-leaning magazine NEO, refutes claims that she had somehow misquoted the Malmö mayor explaining that he read over his comments prior to publication.

Neuding told The Local that Reepalu had requested some changes, which she agreed to, but was happy to leave in his quotes about the Swedish Democrats and the Jews.

Reepalu has since stated in his defence, however, that he's "never been an anti-Semite and never will be". Nevertheless, Jewish anger on the ground in Malmö remains high following Reepalu’s comments.

Local Rabbi Shneur Kesselman tells The Local that he has tried to keep a low profile following the publication of the interview in NEO. “We are not happy about what is going on. Reepalu is not the kind of person who just goes around saying stupid things. He is a clever politician who knows what he is doing,” says Kesselman.

And George Braun, head of the Jewish Community in Gothenburg tells The Local that what was most disturbing with Reepalu’s statements was that this was not a one-time misunderstanding but something that's been going on for years.

"He's made a lot of comments which are going in the same direction. Once wouldn't be so bad, but we've seen the same attitude expressed in different ways over the years all of which have an anti-Semitic touch,” Braun says, adding that he thinks it is time for the Social Democrats to take a stand on this issue. According to Braun, the situation for Jews in Malmö is different than for the rest of the country.

"They continue to experience threats and comments on a daily basis. It's primarily harassment from young men that have a background from the Middle East, from what I understand,” he says.

And in Malmö, Kesselman has stated in previous interviews that he has been attacked for making his beliefs obvious by dressing in traditional Jewish attire. “Sometimes (an attack) can happen twice in one day and then nothing for two months. It all depends," he told The Local previously.

Reepalu has also been mocked by the Malmö wing of the Sweden Democrats, who found themselves dragged into the long-running spat between the mayor and the city's Jews when Reepalu charged the party had "infiltrated" the local Jewish community.

“None of our members have infiltrated the Jewish community to spread some message. This is just Reepalu lying again. Honestly, we are laughing at him," Jörgen Grubb, chair of the Sweden Democrats in Malmö, tells The Local.

Reepalu’s conduct – and future – will be the subject of talks scheduled to take place on Monday between leaders from Sweden's Jewish community and top Social Democrats; talks which Reepalu's Malmö colleague Obradovic expects will be difficult.

“We are going to have a serious discussion about this matter and there will be a lot of hard words at the meeting," he says.

In an interview with local paper Sydsvenskan published on Friday, Reepalu said that he thinks it is important that the matter is cleared up.

“I am hoping to see the Jewish community straight after their talks with Stefan Löfven so that we together can work out what it is I think and feel,” Reepalu said to the paper. “We must work out what I must correct so that it cannot be misinterpreted in that coarse way, like anti-Semitic rhetoric."

Despite the storm of reactions he is confident that he will be staying on as mayor of Malmö. “Of course, I take for granted that the work I do in Malmö, I will continue to do,” said Reepalu to Sydsvenskan.

HUNGARY | Refugee claims from Hungary soar -UN

Monday, 2 April 2012, 19:33 | Source: Toronto Star |

The vicious attack three summers ago outside a supermarket in southwestern Hungary is a lasting, grave memory for Laszlo Sarkozi.

After exiting the store in the city of Szekszárd with his wife, Ilona, and three young children, Sarkozi, a Hungarian Roma, says he was swarmed by knife-wielding members of the far-right Hungarian Guard militia.

“Some of them had knives and some of them had guns,” Sarkozi, now 35, recalls. “They beat us and the children. They held the gun to my wife’s head while I was beaten.”

The incident was not uncommon for Sarkozi, who was a secretary for a Hungarian Roma self-government body. Public beatings and humiliations had been embedded in his daily existence since childhood.

And so Sarkozi’s family had to leave.

A year later, they arrived in Toronto, refugee claimants from a country they believe systematically persecutes Roma, a stateless minority group scattered across Europe often referred to by the derogatory term “gypsies.”

Last year, 4,409 Hungarians sought asylum in Canada — making it the top country of origin for claimants to Canada, according to a new report from the UN Refugee Agency.

Government officials and immigration experts agree most of the claimants from Hungary are Roma. But with their cases so often rejected, it has been hard to prove if they are legitimate refugees.

“Roma are being persecuted in Europe. That’s why they come to Canada,” said Max Berger, an immigration lawyer who represents many Roma clients.

He said the numbers are high because, unlike in the Czech Republic, which also has a high Roma population, a visa is not required for Hungarians to come to Canada.

“It’s just a matter of buying a ticket (and) getting on an airplane.”

Canada put visa restrictions on travellers from the Czech Republic and Mexico in 2009, citing high numbers of bogus refugee claimants attempting to move to Canada from both countries.

The number of refugee claimants from Hungary increased by 89 per cent between 2011 and 2010, when there were 2,321 claims, the UN report said.

China was the second country of origin in the report with 1,853 applicants, followed by Colombia with 892. Overall refugee applications in Canada rose by 9 per cent, to 25,300 from 23,200.

Ronald Lee, co-founder of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre and former lecturer on Roma studies at the University of Toronto, said Hungarian Roma live in a “state of apartheid.”

He said conditions have worsened in the past decade, in part because of the rise of far-right, neo-fascist political parties, such as the ultranationalist Jobbik, which holds 12 per cent of the seats in Hungary’s National Assembly.

“Roma are like a herd of zebras,” Lee said. “Every day one or two of them gets eaten by a lion.”

But Imre Helyes, head of consular affairs at the Hungarian embassy in Ottawa, pointed to the number of claimants who return to Hungary as proof that claims of widespread Roma persecution are overblown.

According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters, 92 per cent of applications from Hungarian asylum-seekers in 2011 were abandoned, withdrawn or rejected. The IRB reported 4,423 claims from Hungary in 2011.

That same year, Canadian taxpayers paid $170 million for nearly 6,000 “unfounded claims,” from EU nationals, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

“There is no doubt, it has been pointed out by the Canadian government, that the absolute majority of these cases are unfounded because applicants are withdrawing them and going back to Hungary, the country which has supposedly persecuted them,” said Helyes.

The Conservative government recently introduced legislation called the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act that would fast-track claimants from so-called “safe countries of origin” in order to root out bogus claims — particularly from Europe, where countries are considered capable of protecting citizens.

“We see this as a very big problem. These claimants are bogging down the system for legitimate refugees who have to wait 20 months to get a decision and receive protection, and we don’t find that acceptable,” said Ana Curic, spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The bill would allow every eligible refugee claimant to receive a hearing at the IRB, but they would be heard within 45 days instead of the average 1,000, and rejected claimants would not be able to turn to the refugee appeal division. (They would still be able to appeal to the Federal Court but would have to leave the country during the legal process.)

“These people are coming, they’re staying for a year or so . . . several going on social assistance on the taxpayer dime, and then they just up and leave, which is their own admission they’re bogus refugee claimants,” Curic said.

Gina Csanyi-Robah, executive director of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre, said the reason Roma refugee claims often fail is because of improper documentation, such as police or medical reports, confirming that they were hate-crime victims in Hungary. Many Roma lack the education to properly gather that information, which might help them through the claimant system, she said.

“You have people coming here and they don’t even know how to write their own name,” she said. “They don’t know the difference between an immigrant and a refugee.”

Lorne Waldman, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said the reason Hungary tops the list in Canada has to do with ease of access. In Africa, for instance, asylum seekers require visas, he said.

As for the Roma, “there aren’t that many places they can go,” said Waldman. “In other European countries they’re running into the same problems as Hungary.

“We’re a country that, until recently, has been tolerant of all ethnic groups,” he added.

As for why the numbers doubled in recent years, Lee, of the Roma Community Centre, said it has more to do with word-of-mouth.

“If you have a best friend or an uncle or cousin here, you’re going to take the chance, too,” he said.

But for the Sarkozis, now living in Scarborough, life is racked with anxiety, even without violent threats. Laszlo Sarkozi’s refugee claim was denied at his first hearing in mid-February; he’s now appealing the decision.

Sarkozi, who is unemployed, believes the federal government wants Roma returned to Hungary “as quickly as possible” and, in a debilitating blend of realism and pessimism, knows his case stands little chance of success.

“We only can trust in God; he’s the one who can help us,” Sarkozi said. “If I have to leave Canada, there’s one thing I’m sure: I won’t return to Hungary.”