Extremist wins top post in far-right German party NPD
Juergen Rieger, a lawyer who has advised and defended neo-Nazis, was appointed one of the group's three vice-presidents - he has convictions for Holocaust denial and assault.
Bamberg, Germany -- Germany's main far-right group, the National Democratic Party (NPD), embraced a leading extremist Sunday but avoided explicit expressions of neo-Nazi opinion which are prohibited under German law.
Juergen Rieger, a lawyer who has advised and defended neo-Nazis, was appointed one of the group's three vice-presidents. Rieger has convictions for Holocaust denial and assault.
Reporters suggested that the overtly neo-Nazi faction within the NPD was gaining a greater voice in the anti-foreigner party, which has seats in two of Germany's 16 state assemblies but has never won parliamentary representation at federal level.
A party spokesman later welcomed Rieger's appointment, saying he would energize the NPD.
Under party leader Udo Voigt, the NPD has sought the support of militants who praise Adolf Hitler's National-Socialist or Nazi doctrines, though Voigt insists that the NPD's nationalist views comply with Germany's democratic constitution.
In a speech to delegates, leader Voigt won applause as he said the party's policy was both nationalist and socialist, but used German grammar to carefully separate them into two words. He said this had no connection whatever to the Nazi era.
More than 2,000 people demonstrated Saturday against the annual convention of the NPD in the Bavarian city of Bamberg.
Kurt Beck, leader of Germany's co-ruling Social Democratic Party SPD, called in Leipzig for the NPD to be compulsorily dissolved.
"It ought not to be allowed," he said. "A robust democracy ought not to give state support to people who want to abolish democracy."