Neo-Nazis hijack Cup for anti-Semitic demos

12th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

12 June 2006, NUREMBERG - Police in Nuremberg dispersed a German neo-Nazi group that had dressed up in Iranian football shirts and handed out anti-Jewish leaflets on Sunday, just before Iran's World Cup match against Mexico.

12 June 2006

NUREMBERG - Police in Nuremberg dispersed a German neo-Nazi group that had dressed up in Iranian football shirts and handed out anti-Jewish leaflets on Sunday, just before Iran's World Cup match against Mexico.

The Bavarian minister in charge of the police, Guenther Beckstein, was the main speaker at a pro-Israel demonstration the same afternoon.

German organizers of the football tournament are worried that the country's small band of far-rightists will parade near games, seeking world attention for their claims that the Holocaust never happened.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused world outrage this year by doubting the Holocaust, but was praised by the neo-Nazis. In Tehran, an Ahmadinejad spokesman backtracked Sunday on a suggestion that the militant Iranian president might show up at the World Cup.

Slightly fewer than 200 far rightists marched Saturday with official permission in another World Cup venue city, Gelsenkirchen, and 16 defied a parade ban Sunday in Nuremberg, where dictator Adolf Hitler built an elaborate park for annual torch-lit Nazi rallies.

The same park contains the 41,000-seat stadium where the Mexico- Iran match was played.

With their minds focussed strictly on football, more than 12,000 elated Mexican fans and 7,500 Iranian fans gathered at the stadium. Those unable to obtain tickets could watch the game free on a giant TV screen elsewhere in the park.

City police spokesman Peter Groesch said the group of far-right men and women were moved along on a city street for breaching bye- laws. They had waved Iranian flags and demanded that the anti- Ahmadinejad demonstration be prohibited.

More than 1,000 people attended the later anti-Ahmadinejad demonstration organized by German Jewish groups and trade unionists.

They waved large Israeli flags as Beckstein said, "Let's act decisively against extremism and anti-Semitism whatever its form."

He said Germany as a whole could be counted on to stand by its Jewish citizens and the state of Israel.

Beckstein stressed that the anti-Ahmadinejad rally, which passed off without violence, was not directed against the Iranian people or the Iranian football team, but only against Ahmadinejad's "intolerable verbal assaults".

German authorities have ignored Iran's Vice-President Mohammed Aliabadi, who was set to attend the Nuremberg match. They say they also cannot stop Ahmadinejad visiting Germany to watch football, since a foreign head of state can enter Germany without a visa.

The national head of the Jewish community, Charlotte Knobloch, earlier described the Iranian leader as "a second Hitler" and demanded that Berlin declare him persona non grata.

In Tehran, a foreign office spokesman, Hamid-Resa Assefi, cast doubt on whether the president would make such a trip.

Previously presidential staff suggested he might attend a match if Iran reached the second round. But Assefi said that would "not be enough," adding, "We'll wait and see how our team does. If they reach the final, it'll be a different story."

The premier of Saxony state, Georg Milbradt, said in a news interview to appear in print Monday that he would not ignore Ahmadinejad if he did show up.

"I think we should treat guests hospitably regardless of political differences," Milbradt told the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. Iran is scheduled to play Angola in Leipzig on June 21.

DPA

Subject: German news

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