Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

No excuse for far-right violence: Merkel

PROTESTS:Alexander Gauland defended his party’s members who marched alongside neo-Nazis, saying they had exercised their ‘democratic right to freedom of assembly’

AP, BERLIN

German Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer gives a speech in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, in Bonn yesterday.

Photo: AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday assured parliament that she takes seriously the public’s concerns about crimes committed by refugees and pledged a strong response, but condemned recent demonstrations as “hateful,” saying there is “no excuse” for expressions of hate, Nazi sympathies or violence in response.

The comments come after the killing of a German man for which an Iraqi and a Syrian have been arrested prompted days of anti-refugee protests in the eastern city of Chemnitz that at times turned violent.

Neo-Nazis were seen giving the stiff-armed Hitler salutes in the largest demonstration, the day after the killing, which attracted about 6,000 people, and on the sidelines of the protest masked men threw stones and bottles at a kosher restaurant yelling: “Jewish pig, get out of Germany.”

The day before, in spontaneous protests by hundreds immediately after the killing, several foreigners were attacked and injured in the streets.

Merkel assured lawmakers that her government was equally aware of its responsibility to take the wider concerns of the public seriously and that it was working hard on the issue.

“We are especially troubled by the severe crimes in which the alleged perpetrators were asylum-seekers,” she said. “This shocks us ... [and] such crimes must be investigated, the perpetrators have to be taken to court and punished with the severity of the law.”

However, she said the concerns were “no excuse” for the demonstrations that followed the killing in Chemnitz.

Merkel dismissed as semantics an argument over whether the foreigners were “hunted” in the streets by the protesters — a reference to her domestic spy chief’s comments last week questioning the characterization used by her spokesman in describing the events — and condemned the demonstrations as “hateful.”

“There is no excuse or justification for hate, for the use of violence by some, Nazi symbols, hostility against people who look different, who own a Jewish restaurant, attacks on police — and heated debates about whether it’s hate or a hunt don’t help,” Merkel said to applause.

German domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen faced two parliamentary committees later on Wednesday to explain his much-criticized comments to Bild, in which he questioned the authenticity of a video showing protesters chasing down and attacking a foreigner.

German Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer also made a home affairs committee appearance, saying he sees no need for any “consequences” for Maassen, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported, citing participants.

However, Eva Hoegl, a senior lawmaker with the center-left junior party in Merkel’s governing coalition, the Social Democrats, said her party has “strong doubts” Maassen remains right for the job.

Alexander Gauland, a leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany, spoke to parliament before Merkel.

He defended the Alternative for Germany members who marched alongside the neo-Nazis in Chemnitz, noting they exercised their “democratic right to freedom of assembly.”

“There were a couple of aggressive idiots among the demonstrators who were yelling: ‘Foreigners out’ and who gave the Hitler salute, nobody disputes that,” Gauland said. “That is distasteful and criminal, but it was a minority who were neither representative of the demonstration as a whole, nor able to delegitimize the majority of the protesters.”

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