Merkel condemns 'shameful' attack on Indians

23rd August 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Aug 22, 2007 (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted a small town in Germany's former communist east Wednesday for failing to stop a brutal mob attack on Indian immigrants, saying it had hurt the country's image abroad.

BERLIN, Aug 22, 2007 (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted a small town in Germany's former communist east Wednesday for failing to stop a brutal mob attack on Indian immigrants, saying it had hurt the country's image abroad.


Although she declined to explicitly blame the incident on the far right, Merkel told a cabinet meeting that last weekend's violence, and the fact no one had intervened to stop it, was "extraordinarily deplorable and shameful".

"It is not acceptable for people to be hunted or hounded through the streets of German cities and then beaten up," her deputy spokesman Thomas Steg quoted Merkel as saying during the meeting with her ministers.

During a summer festival Saturday, a group of about 50 Germans, some shouting neo-Nazi slogans, chased eight Indians through the streets of the town of Muegeln and broke down the door of a pizzeria where they had sought refuge.

Three of the Indians, residents of Muegeln or other towns in the region, were so brutally beaten they needed hospital treatment while the others escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Police said bystanders passively stood by.

The story has dominated the national news, with images of the victims' swollen eyes and bruised faces featuring prominently in newspapers and on television.

Prosecutors in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had opened a probe against two local men aged 21 and 23 who were questioned and released Sunday.

Merkel called for a quick and thorough investigation to determine whether members of right-wing extremist groups were behind the attack.

She added that the government this week would examine its programmes to fight the far right, indicating that the international community held Germany to a high standard because of its Nazi past.
"Such cases hurt Germany's image in the world," Steg said, citing Merkel's remarks to the cabinet.

A leading Jewish community representative said the incident made clear that the government had failed to do enough to stop extremists from creating "no-go areas" for foreigners in the east.

"Officials make the same statements every time (there is an attack on foreigners) but there is never a noticeable change in the strategy to fight xenophobia," the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, told the online news service Netzeitung.

"We must relaunch the debate about no-go areas."

The Indian foreign ministry said it had sought further information from Berlin on the attack.

"We have taken up the matter with the German government and have requested that they take action to address this issue and prevent future incidents of the kind," it said in a statement in New Delhi.

Gotthard Deuse, the mayor of Muegeln, a town of 5,000 people 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Berlin, drew criticism for claiming on Monday that there was no anti-foreigner sentiment among its citizens.

The federal minister for development in the eastern states, Wolfgang Tiefensee, said Deuse must acknowledge that whatever comes of the police investigation the attack was "an intolerable outbreak of violence."

Kramer said it was "a bitter truth" that foreigners should be warned against living in some areas of the depressed former communist east, where he saw an escalating problem with racist attacks.

"Yesterday it was people of colour, today it is foreigners and tomorrow it will be gays and lesbians or perhaps Jews," he said.

About 200 demonstrators marched through Muegeln late Tuesday in a protest against the far-right.

Germany has in recent years nervously watched neo-Nazis gain a political foothold, particularly in the east where they have exploited young voters' unhappiness with rampant unemployment.

The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party won seats in the legislature in Saxony in 2004 and in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2006.

AFP

Subject: German news

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