Neo-Nazi arrests in skinhead demo

Associated Press/October 22, 2006

Berlin, Germany -- Sixteen neo-Nazis were arrested during a demonstration supporting the jailed lead singer of a banned skinhead rock group, Berlin police said Sunday, amid concerns far-right extremists are becoming more active and more violent.

Some 750 neo-Nazis and other far-right supporters turned out Saturday outside of a Berlin prison to call for the release of Michael Regener, who has been jailed since 2003, when a Berlin court found his rock band Landser, or Foot Soldiers, guilty of spreading hate in their songs against Jews and foreigners.

The demonstration was organized by the far-right National Democratic Party, which last month won representation in the state legislature of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The party, which is growing in popularity in the former East Germany, also holds seats in Saxony's state parliament, where another extremist party is also represented.

Mainstream politicians and Jewish leaders have expressed concern that far-right groups, including violent neo-Nazis, are growing in strength, particularly in the east.

Experts say they are exploiting the region's shallow democratic roots after decades of communism and tapping frustration at the depressed local economy.

Israeli Ambassador Shimon Stein warned over the weekend that Jews in Germany feel increasingly "unsafe," pointing to the heavy security that surrounds most synagogues or Jewish community centers, according to a newspaper report.

"They are not able to live a normal Jewish life," Stein was quoted as telling the Neue Osnabruecker newspaper in its Saturday edition, calling on Germans to take extra measures to fight the trend of what he called rising anti-Semitism.

Last week, the German government committed an additional US$6.3 million to nationwide programs aimed at fighting far-right extremism, including teams of traveling consultants, and victims' groups.

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