Bonn Offers Package of Bills Aimed at Combatting Right-Wing Violence

From Associated Press

The German government on Sunday presented a broad package of bills to combat rightist violence, including harsher jail terms for right-wing thugs and punishment for those who deny the Holocaust happened.

Drawing on outrage over police handling of a six-hour rampage against foreigners in the eastern city of Magdeburg on Thursday, Chancellor Helmut Kohl pressed the opposition to pass the legislation this month.

"The riots in Magdeburg must be the incentive to boost our anti-crime package into law," said Kohl's chief of staff, Friedrich Bohl.

The laws would increase the penalty for assault from three to five years; allow judges to detain right-wingers temporarily without warrants; increase penalties for racist or anti-Semitic taunts, and ban symbols or gestures that imitate the already-banned swastika and Hitler salute.

The package includes a proposal to make it flatly illegal to say the Holocaust is fictitious. Right-wing extremists make this claim to spread the impression that Jews and foreigners are smearing Germany's good name.

The package is assured passage in the lower house of Parliament but faces trouble in the upper house, which is controlled by the opposition Social Democrats.

Some Social Democrats feel harsher penalties would hamper programs to rehabilitate right-leaning minors. They feel some of the measures in the government's anti-crime package will curtail civil liberties in the population at large.

Police on Sunday arrested the 19-year-old alleged ringleader of Thursday's hunt-and-bash campaign by rightists, said Magdeburg prosecutor Rudolf Jaspers.

Jewish and Turkish community spokesmen were outraged by the quick release of 35 right-wingers arrested during the clashes Thursday night, which left seven people injured.

Before Sunday's arrest, the only charges stemming from the Magdeburg clashes were against a Turkish waiter who stabbed a neo-Nazi after about 30 rightists chased five African men into a Turkish-run cafe and began trashing it.

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