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Crackdown on neo-Nazi networks

Mellisa Eddy
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Highlighting brutality:Women hold placards with the names of victims of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror cell, during a demonstration against fascism and neo-Nazis in Munich on Saturday. — PHOTO: Reuters
Highlighting brutality:Women hold placards with the names of victims of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror cell, during a demonstration against fascism and neo-Nazis in Munich on Saturday. — PHOTO: Reuters

They called themselves the “A.D. Jail Crew” and sought to unite “brothers and sisters” in prisons across Germany who “defend loyalty, comradeship and the ‘old’ values”. Their aim, according to an advertisement found by the authorities who broke up the network, was to provide support for neo-Nazis serving time behind bars.

Combing for clues about prisoners who might have been contacted by the three suspected ringleaders in a prison in the state of Hesse, the authorities widened their search to include penal institutions across the country. The three are under investigation by prosecutors in Frankfurt on suspicion of forming a criminal organization, and attempting to reconstitute a banned organisation.

Details about attempts by the group to organise fellow incarcerated extremists emerged this week, days before the trial of the sole survivor of a far-right trio that called itself the National Socialist Underground opens in Munich. The authorities in Hesse said the name of the suspect, Beate Zschape, was included on a list of prisoners who were contacted by those trying to set up the far-right organization.

Zschape is charged with playing a role in the killings of eight men of Turkish background, one Greek and a policewoman in a crime rampage that triggered soul-searching in a country that has taken great pains over the years to publicly account for the crimes of its past.

The police responded to outrage over failure to uncover the terror cell by pledging to redouble efforts to crack down on the far-right scene, and news of the attempt by extremists to organize behind bars raised troubling questions about the seriousness of that commitment.

Justice officials defended their actions, saying discovery of, and swift movement against, the prison network reflected their dedication to combat the far right. They pledged to further tighten controls on communication between prisoners, including increasing cooperation with other German states to monitor prisoners' mail.

“'We do not want the mistakes made by security officials in connection with the crimes of the NSU to continue in the penal system,” said the minister for justice. “Consequently, we are launching a nationwide campaign against far-right structures in correctional facilities.”

But civil rights groups charge that though a parliamentary commission tasked with investigating the authorities' failure to link the 10 killings to the National Socialist Underground has cost some high-ranking officials their jobs, the attitudes of the police and local prosecutors in cities and towns across Germany have not changed.

— New York Times News Service


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