English News Archive

News between May 15, and May 7, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For recent news select English News.


Headlines

May 14, 1998: May 13, 1998: May 12, 1998: May 11, 1998: May 10, 1998: May 8, 1998: May 7, 1998:

TOP

FEATURE - Radicals ride discontent of German east
09:09 p.m May 07, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

MUNICH, May 8 (Reuters) - Surrounded by an entourage of bodyguards with closely-cropped hair and shabby men introduced as ``party executive,'' the leader of Germany's latest ultra right upstarts made his entrance like a feudal lord.

It was no surprise that Gerhard Frey, whose German Peoples' Union (DVU) scored the best election result for the far right in post-war Germany, should choose Munich's Mathaeser beer hall for his first media encounter since last week's shock success.

Set amidst concrete blocks in the bleak Munich workers' surburb of Hasenbergl, the traditional Bavarian restaurant is a popular haunt for the local neo-Nazi and far right scene.

Riding widespread discontent in a region with mass unemployment Frey's Deutsche Volksunion, accused of racism and anti-Semitism, shocked the world when it stormed into the state assembly in east German Saxony-Anhalt with 13 percent of vote.

Frey, 65, boasted that the trend was unstoppable and pledged to change Germany's political landscape with further successes and by influencing mainstream parties to shift to the right.

Bonn parties plunged into soul-searching and held a series of crisis meetings to reassess their strategy.

VICTORY SURPASSED WILDEST DREAMS

For once Frey, who counts French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and Russian right-wing extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky among his friends, could gloat over a victory that surpassed his wildest dreams and feel he too was riding the crest of a wave of ultra right-wing radicalism across Europe.

``In France, Italy and Denmark, everywhere the right wing is entering democratic politics and shifting the mainstream body politic to the right,'' said the plump, balding Frey.

``Those in grieving since our success in Saxony-Anhalt must realise that our demand for job protection has received huge support. We have touched a nerve in the population.''

He cited voter surveys that showed 30 percent of voters under 30 in the depressed eastern state voted DVU -- many unemployed youths or men voting for the first time.

``Voting right-wing for young people today is part of youth culture like techno and skateboarding,'' he said.

Famed for acrimonious news conferences where he has been known to swear at journalists and storm out, Frey replied patiently but was unable to hide his displeasure.

MILLIONAIRE PUBLISHER

Frey is not an ordinary rabble-rouser. As a speaker, his talents are limited. His real genius lies in a gift for a certain kind of publishing that has made him a millionaire.

Since the late 1950s he has built up a lucrative empire of far right newspapers, revisionist histories and Nazi kitsch without falling foul of Germany's strict laws on incitement to racial hatred and denying the Holocaust.

Used to being on the defensive, he describes his party's election campaign in Saxony-Anhalt in heroic terms ``like David without a catapult against many Goliaths.''

While widely accused of fighting election campaigns with financial not political means, Frey defends the estimated three million marks ($1.7 million) he poured into Saxony-Anhalt as necessary.

``The old parties had an advantage. The whole of the media, trade unions and other organisations were against us.''

Every year since the DVU was founded in 1987, about 3,000 party faithful gather in the Nibelungenhalle in the Bavarian city of Passau for their annual party congress.

Proceedings, which attract skinheads and neo-Nazis from across Germany, are dominated by Frey whose rants against foreigners and European integration are legendary.

That is all in the past, Frey would have us believe.

He denied his party was racist, saying it included ``Indians, blacks and yellows.'' The problem was with ``fake asylum-seekers'' and ``criminal foreigners,'' he said.

He also distanced himself from skinhead ``criminals'' associated with the party who, he said, had been expelled.

When asked about the Holocaust, he preferred to talk about the ``more pressing problem'' of unemployment, now at 4.6 million, which could be solved by re-channelling Germany's European Union contributions into job creation and giving Germans jobs first.

Germany's divided far right parties should stop quarrelling and join forces, he said, to create a potent force ahead of two state polls and the general election in September.

But he was reserved when asked his strategy in detail.

SHUNNED BY OTHER FAR RIGHT PARTIES

Germany's two other main far right parties, the National Democratic Party (NDP) and Republicans, have long said they would have nothing to do with him.

``It's a tactical manoeuvre,'' said Republicans leader Rolf Schlierer, who dismisses Frey's DVU as a ``post box party.'' ``He just wants to unnerve the other parties.''

NPD party manager Ulrich Eigenfeld portrays Frey as a megalomaniac who tyrannises the DVU, widely seen as a one-man party entirely dependent on his financial support, lacking a proper structure with puppet candidates.

Frey's approach is seen as that of a businessman rather than demagogue. He targets Germany's smaller states with expensive campaigns -- such as in Schleswig-Holstein and Bremen where the DVU briefly won seats in the early 1990s -- to make the money back later from parliamentary funding.

PROTEST VOTES

Voter surveys show most who voted DVU were protest voters, specifically targeted by Frey with slogans such as: ``This time vote in protest. Vote DVU.''

Political analysts say that while suspicion of foreigners is widespread in the east, these voters were not rightist radicals.

They ascribe the DVU's success to economic frustration in Saxony-Anhalt coupled with a perception that there was no acceptable alternative to Chancellor Helmut Kohl's coalition parties in Bonn or the Social Democrats who ruled the state in a coalition with the Greens that relied on reform communist support.

Political experts and Bonn parties say the DVU's success, which brought back memories of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933, could be replicated elsewhere in the east, where one fifth of Germany's 81 million citizens live.

They do not expect the far right to repeat this on national level, saying it is split and lacks a charismatic leader.

Far right leaders like Frey, they say, are motivated by vanity and attempts in the past to form an alliance have been thwarted by rivalry for the top post.

About 10 percent of the electorate have the potential to vote far right -- a vote shared among at least three parties -- but only four percent actually will, pollsters predict.

Frey also hinted that he knew his limits, saying he wanted to bring established parties back to their ``national roots.''

``When the old parties start behaving in a normal way...then I can feel I have more than fulfilled my task,'' he said. ($ - 1.791 German Marks)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Holocaust game at S.African school disgusts Jews
10:47 a.m. May 07, 1998 Eastern

JOHANNESBURG, May 7 (Reuters) - White children training for sport at a South African school dressed up as Nazis and acted out the delousing of Jews before urging that they be killed, Jewish officials said on Thursday.

``A school fails its children if it teaches them no moral conscience and this shows a failing in that regard,'' Brigitte Bardavid of South Africa's Jewish Board of Deputies told Reuters.

At the team-building athletics meeting for students aged around 16 and 17, members of one team marched into the school hall wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with swastikas.

Team-mates, dressed like Nazi SS men, dragged a group of chained-up ``Jews'' from the rival team, the Kudus, into the hall.

the Johannesburg Star newspaper said: ``The 'Nazis' then sprayed a white substance onto the 'Jews', symbolising the delousing process used on Jews in Nazi camps.''

``As the loud classical music accompanying the procession reached a climax, a banner unfolded before the school reading 'Kill the KuJews', a pun on the opposition's name.''

The incident, that took place in January at the High School in Sasolburg, an industrial town near Johannesburg, has outraged Jewish leaders who learnt of it from a concerned parent.

Bardavid said the children involved were white.

``Apartheid might have desensitised children, especially white children, but this kind of thing can happen anywhere,'' she said. ``Such behaviour can have ramifications in terms of racism towards all kinds of people.''

``The students had no real idea about the holocaust or what it implies for other people, or that it can be extremely offensive,'' she said.

Teachers said they had had no idea what was coming but were criticised for not stopping the ``game'' once it began.

The school's governing body has apologised unreservedly and has agreed to allow Yad Vashem, a foundation that upholds the memory of the six million Jews exterminated in Adolf Hitler's World War Two genocide, to present lectures at the school. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

International effort to raise Holocaust awareness
12:53 p.m. May 07, 1998 Eastern

By Belinda Goldsmith

STOCKHOLM, May 7 (Reuters) - An international effort to ensure schoolchildren are aware of the horrors of the Holocaust was launched in Stockholm on Thursday at Sweden's initiative as concerns mount about neo-Nazi movements emerging across Europe.

Government representatives from the United States, Britain and Sweden met to discuss ways to cooperate on information and training to spread knowledge about the Holocaust.

``This is one of the ways the world will learn of this horror and make sure nothing like this happens again,'' Anthony Layden, head of the British Foreign Office's Western European department, told a news conference.

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson spearheaded the multinational effort after a survey in Sweden last year found over 10 percent of schoolchildren did not know what the Holocaust was or that it had occurred.

He wrote to U.S. President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair in January this year with his concerns and three leaders agreed to pool forces.

Persson told the one-day meeting the rise of Nazi movements over Europe was an echo of the evil witnessed 60 years ago.

``It is becoming frighteningly evident that unspeakable evil can take the stage again,'' Persson said in a speech.

``If we recoil, if we turn a deaf ear, if we avert our glance, we betray democracy and human dignity. We must use all the democratic forces at our disposal, we must ban Nazism and racism in any shape that they appear.''

Sweden, which was officially neutral during World War Two, is smarting after a year of reminders of uncomfortable facts about its actions during the war.

These have included investigations into Sweden acquiring gold from Nazi Germany even though it suspected it was looted from Jews, the supply of parts for Nazi Germany's deadly V-2 rockets, and selling iron ore for German munitions.

Persson, who referred to the ``shadowy side of Swedish history,'' said the danger was that the majority would remain silent but facts could help raise people's voices.

The most recent criticism of Sweden came last weekend when the daily paper Svenska Dagbladet published a document from state archives showing Swedish authorities knew and may have helped suspected war criminal Evald Mikson leave Sweden in 1946.

Estonian-born Mikson is accused of exterminating Jews in Tallinn where he worked as a policeman during the Nazi occupation in 1941. He fled to Sweden in 1944, then to Iceland.

Nazi crime hunter Ephraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre on Thursday called for Sweden to set up a commission to investigate the authorities' admission of Nazi war criminals and find a legal mechanism to prosecute or deport them.

Zuroff, who addressed the meeting, has claimed numerous Baltic Nazi war criminals escaped to Sweden.

``The issue of Nazi war criminals in Sweden is especially relevant to this educational project and it is high time the government took action against the murderers who found refuge in this country,'' Zuroff said in statement.

Layden said countries needed to be honest about their actions during World War Two.

``We always tell the story like it was. There is no doubt the world's Jewish community was let down badly by the international diplomatic process,'' he said.

The meeting will reconvene in Washington in September and present a report in November to the Washington Conference on Jewish assets stolen during World War Two. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Protesters block Millon from honouring WW2 dead
10:23 a.m. May 08, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, May 8 (Reuters) - Several hundred angry French protesters on Friday blocked Charles Millon, a conservative leader linked to the far-right National Front, from laying a VE-Day wreath at a monument for fallen French soldiers.

The mostly young crowd jeered and cursed Millon as he walked from the town hall in Belley, the town north of Grenoble where he is mayor, towards a war monument on the 53rd anniversary of the end of World War Two.

They said Millon, a leader of the UDF party re-elected head of the Rhone-Alpes regional council last March with National Front votes, was not qualified to honour soldiers who had died fighting against Nazi racism and hatred.

Unable to reach the monument, Millon took refuge in the town's meeting hall and slipped out through a back door.

``This is a show of intolerance unworthy of a democracy,'' he told an LCI television reporter as angry youths shouted at him.

``We will not leave Millon in peace until he resigns,'' said Roger Gardet, a communist member of the regional council based in Lyon.

``Once you could say 'we didn't know', but now we know. Even though he knows, Charles Millon has tarnished himself with the National Front. It's lamentable, it's unacceptable.''

Millon, once considered a leading light in the centrist and pro-European UDF (Union for French Democracy) party, was the most prominent of several conservatives who accepted support from the shunned National Front to be reelected head of their regional councils.

While some later stepped down under pressure, Millon has clung to his post and argued that France's splintered mainstream right had to ally itself with the Front if it wants to form majorities against the Socialist-led united left.

In Paris, President Jacques Chirac, accompanied by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Defence Minister Alain Richard, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe and shook hands with veterans gathered for the annual commemoration.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

German authorities fear far-right terror
11:10 a.m. May 10, 1998 Eastern

BONN, May 10 (Reuters) - An official of Germany's internal security office said on Sunday militant far-right extremists could begin carrying out terrorist attacks similar to the left-wing ``Red Army Faction.''

Hans-Juergen Foerster, head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in eastern Brandenburg state, said that German mercenaries who fought in the war in former Yugoslavia were ready to commit violence.

``I see a development that is moving towards terrorism,'' Foerster told the weekly Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Violence from the right motivated by racism and political ideology is on the rise again in Germany, following a lull after an ugly outbreak of anti-foreigner riots in the wake of German unification in 1990 that claimed more than 30 lives.

A German government report released last week said racist attacks by far-right extremists surged by nearly a third in 1997 and the German Peoples Union (DVU) scored the biggest post-war far-right victory in an eastern state vote last month.

Foerster said that far-right militants had a compulsion for weapons, but still lacked the organisation of the RAF, which carried out attacks and assassinations against Germany's political and business elite in the 1970s and 1980s.

In addition to the RAF's underground urban guerrillas, there were so-called ``closing time terrorists,'' who went to work and lived ordinary lives only to carry out militant attacks by cover of darkness.

``Such structures could develop very quickly on the right,'' said Foerster. ``I would add the some 100 extreme right-wing German mercenaries who fought in ex-Yugoslavia.''

Avi Primor, Israel's ambassador to Germany, told Berlin-based InfoRadio that the rise of the far-right in Germany was clearly linked to economic troubles, which have spelled the end of ``fair-weather democracy.''

``The decisive question is how will the majority of Germans respond to this phenomenon,'' he said.

``Up to now they have always been energetically opposed. Now, where radical right-wing activity is rising, we are curious to see how the majority will respond,'' he added.

((Bonn newsroom, +49 228 260970 fax +49 228 26097125, bonn.newsroom+reuters.com)) ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Havel pardons attackers of Czech far-right leader
01:14 p.m May 11, 1998 Eastern

PRAGUE, May 11 (Reuters) - Czech President Vaclav Havel on Monday pardoned two gypsy men who were charged for attacking far-right Republican Party Chairman Miroslav Sladek during a weekend party meeting, a presidential spokesman said.

Sladek and three of his party colleagues suffered light injuries when attacked by several gypsies at a party campaign meeting in the northern Czech town of Novy Bor, police said.

Two men, Jan Tancos and Josef Tancos, were charged with assault in the incident, but Havel's spokesman Ladislav Spacek said the president used his amnesty power to set them free.

Spacek did not give any reason for Havel's decision, which can be enacted unilaterally by presidential decree.

Local media quoted gypsies at the scene of the attack as saying Sladek had been provocative, disparaging gypsies as well as Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky, Havel and his wife, Dagmar.

Police fired warning shots to break up the crowd, which the party said included about 100 gypsies who stormed the meeting, the Czech news agency CTK reported.

The Republicans, who won eight percent support in a 1996 general election and are expected to win seats again in June's poll, have targeted the gypsy community in their campaign.

Both Havel and the government have called on Czechs to improve relations with gypsies, a community numbering in the hundreds of thousands, among whom unemployment is commonly 60 percent compared with a national average of five percent.

Sladek, a doctor of philosophy who has been one of the most controversial figures since the fall of Communism in 1989, was acquitted on charges of spreading racial hatred in January after spending 17 days in custody on remand.

Sladek was widely reported to have shouted that it was a ``pity we killed only a few Germans during the war'' at a demonstration in January 1997 outside a hall where prime ministers signed a bilateral declaration on Czech-German relations.

A district court ruled that Sladek's statements did not violate Czech law when taken in the full context of his speech.

Havel narrowly won re-election by parliament in January for a final five-year term in a vote which the Republicans refuse to accept because Sladek, a declared candidate for president, was still in jail awaiting trial.

Havel routinely excludes Republicans and Communists from invitations to meetings with parliamentary parties.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

French skinhead says never meant to kill Moroccan
03:23 p.m May 11, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, May 11 (Reuters) - A French skinhead accused of murdering a Moroccan, whose death three years ago unleashed a wave of anti-racist anger, testified on Monday that he never meant to kill the man by pushing him into the River Seine.

``What happened was unintentional. In fact I deeply regret what happened,'' Mickael Freminet, 22, told a Paris court.

Several witnesses to the incident have told police they saw Freminet walk up to Brahim Bouarram, 29, and shove him into the river with both hands, without any exchange of words.

But Freminet testified that Bouarram had muttered an insult as the two passed each other on a walkway along the Seine. He said he had walked down to the river to urinate after taking part in the far-right National Front's annual May Day rally.

``He called me 'Skinhead son of a bitch'. I gave him a shove. He fell backwards,'' Freminet said.

He saw Bouarram bob helplessly in the water but could not swim so was unable to go to his rescue. Shortly afterwards he was ``reassured'' when he saw emergency workers approaching the area, he testified.

``The next day on television, I heard that a young man had died, and I had no idea it was me they were looking for,'' he went on.

The trial, which began last Thursday, is expected to wrap up on Friday.

Bouarram's death, which occurred a week before the 1995 presidential election runoff, unleashed popular outrage against the National Front and its fiery leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, although it has not harmed the xenophobic party's standing in France over the long term. The Front regularly wins about 15 percent of the vote in national elections.

Then-president Francois Mitterrand led a mass protest against racism two days after the killing and threw a wreath into the river where Bouarram drowned.

This year's National Front May Day rally drew a record crowd of more than 11,000 people.

In the dock alongside Freminet are three other skinheads, David Parent, 21, Christophe Calame, 28, and David Halbin, 28, all accused of failing to come to the assistance of a person in danger. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Bank's gold from Nazi victims' teeth - researcher
09:26 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

By Fiona Fleck

BONN, May 11 (Reuters) - About 600 kg (1,320 pounds) of gold bars held by Germany's largest commercial bank, Deutsche Bank AG, during World War Two probably came from melted-down teeth fillings of Holocaust victims, a German researcher said on Monday.

Independent researcher Hersch Fischler said it was doubtful Deutsche's management knew where the gold came from because the pre-war Reichsbank central bank, from which Deutsche acquired the gold, kept the origins of these ingots top secret.

Fischer's comments came after a British historian commissioned by Deutsche to investigate its pre-war gold business confirmed the 600 kilos was ``Melmer gold'' -- named after Bruno Melmer, the SS officer in charge of valuables stolen from Jews and other Nazi victims killed between 1942 and 1944.

Fischler said the Melmer gold was refined and melted by Degussa, one of the world's largest metals companies, and other firms and probably consisted mainly of teeth fillings from Jews at the Auschwitz and Lublin concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Deutsche and Degussa AG said they could not comment on these findings until separate independent investigations into each company had been completed by historians.

``These 600 kilos of gold bars were probably mainly melted down teeth fillings and came from concentration camps in Lublin and Auschwitz according to Melmer's reports,'' Fischler, who is based in Duesseldorf, told Reuters.

``Jewelry, rings and household objects looted by the Nazis were generally not melted down because the Nazis thought they could make more money if they sold them off,'' Fischler said.

``In Auschwitz and other camps, teeth were pulled from dead prisoners and roughly melted down in makeshift forges before being handed over to be refined.''

Degussa admitted last year it had refined and melted down gold for the Nazis which was then handed over to the Reichsbank and that its pre-war files showed some of this was from Jews.

``We know some gold taken from the Nazis' Jewish victims was refined and melted down by Degussa. But our documentation is incomplete and we can not give precise details,'' said Degussa spokeswoman Monika Hillemacher.

She said the firm had asked a team of historians at Cologne University to investigate the subject. They were expected to complete an independent report around the end of 1999.

Deutsche Bank spokesman Walter Schumacher said he could not comment on the new findings, saying: ``These are some of the things we hope the historians' investigation can elucidate.''

Facing allegations of profiting from gold and property confiscated from the Nazis' victims, Deutsche appointed a team of historians to investigate its role during the Third Reich.

One of them, Jonathan Steinberg of Britain's Cambridge University, told German SWF television in a report to be aired later on Monday that Deutsche had acquired about five tonnes of Reichsbank gold. Of this, 600 kilos was Melmer gold.

While Steinberg and Fischler agreed the bank probably did not know it was the gold of camp victims, Fischler said they must have known it was plundered from banks in Nazi-occupied countries, particularly France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Experts agree the main problem in establishing the extent to which German companies profited from Holocaust victims' gold is that 26 files in which Melmer kept a precise record of victims' gold have been lost since 1948.

Fischler uncovered lost Reichsbank files on micro film last November. These showed Deutsche had received 650 kg (1,430 pounds) of gold and German commercial bank Dresdner Bank AG some 313 kg (689 pounds).

These included fragments copied from the lost Melmer files, on which Fischler based his findings and which have also served as the basis of other historians' research.

Fischler published his findings in an independent report for the Bergier commission, appointed by the Swiss parliament, to examine the role of Swiss banks during World War Two.

The international panel was due to publish a final report on Swiss gold purchases from Nazi Germany last week.

But it said the full report in German had not yet been translated into other languages. It is expected to reveal the extent to which Swiss central bank officials knew the gold purchased from the Nazis was looted from Holocaust victims. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

INTERVIEW-Hungary needs nationalism, rightist says
09:27 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

By Denes Albert

BUDAPEST, May 11 (Reuters) - The leader of Hungary's far right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) said Sunday's vote proves his compatriots want radical nationalists in parliament.

``The Hungarian parliament cannot be without the ideas of national radicalism represented by us,'' MIEP leader Istvan Csurka told Reuters in an interview a day after his party won a stunning upset to enter parliament for the first time.

Although the party got only 5.55 percent of the vote, Csurka, a former playwright who has a long and chequered history in Hungarian politics, said it was a start.

``People recognised what we stand for: the vote was not a response to our campaign,'' Csurka said.

MIEP was fifth-placed in the first round of the general elections behind the ruling Socialists with 32.25 percent, centre-right Fidesz-Hungarian Civic party with 28.20 percent, the Smallholders with 13.76 percent and junior coalition partner Free Democrats (SZDSZ) with 7.88 percent.

Csurka was ousted from the then-ruling Hungarian Democratic Forum in 1993 for his radical views and in his public appearances he occasionally wonders off into gestures and makes remarks with what some Hungarians say are fascist connotations.

In a televised debate on Friday, Csurka used one second of time remaining to him to offer a Nazi-style salute with two outstretched fingers.

The Socialists, who still have a tough battle ahead in the second round, used Csurka's radical image to scare off more moderate voters from Fidesz.

``Anyone in their right mind would not be happy with the progress of MIEP,'' Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn said on Sunday night.

Csurka said Horn's remark was unacceptable in a democracy.

``The prime minister branded five percent of Hungary's parliament fools,'' he said. ``This is unacceptable.''

Csurka said that although he did not fully agree with Fidesz's agenda, he would support a Fidesz-led government from the outside.

``There are certain crossover points such as in family policy and privatisation,'' he said ``(But) replacing the current government is our main concern.''

Fidesz leaders said that the gains both extremes made during the first round of elections was due to the restrictive economic policy for the last four years which left a considerable part of the population worse-off.

Csurka said earlier that the country was hostage to international institutions such the International Monetary Fund and would have reviewed all privatisation deals if he came to power.

He also criticised earlier the government's drive towards European Union membership, but said most of the harm had already been done and all Hungary could hope for was a government that would conduct tough negotiations.

``Most of the country has already been sold off,'' he said. ``What we must do now is to negotiate a much better position for our agriculture.''

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Hungary's right pleased by first-round tally
10:52 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST, Hungary (Reuters) - Hungary's right gloated Monday over its strong showing in the first round of a two-stage general election, but political analysts said it was too soon to count the ruling Socialists out.

The Socialists remained Hungary's strongest party, getting 32.25 percent of the vote Sunday.

But their coalition partners, the Free Democrats, plunged below eight percent from almost 20 percent last time around in 1994, while the center-right Fidesz Hungarian Civic Party soared into second place with 28.2 percent from seven percent previously.

The second round of voting takes place on May 24.

Istvan Csurka, leader of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), which got sufficient votes to hold parliamentary seats for the first time, said he would help other rightist parties eject the Socialist-liberal coalition.

``We are willing to support (Fidesz and the Smallholders) from outside,'' Csurka said on Hungarian television, referring also to the Independent Smallholders party, which was lying third in the percentage tally with almost 14 percent.

``I can say surely that we will support them -- from outside the coalition but inside parliament -- in order to replace the present coalition government,'' Csurka said.

But both Fidesz and the Smallholders have been at pains in the run-up to the election to say they would not contemplate a coalition with Justice and Life.

Csurka's party got only 5.5 percent of the vote in the first round, up from 1.4 percent in 1994, but it was enough -- over five percent -- to enter parliament.

Analysts were at pains to point out that, under Hungary's complicated system, which combines regional, national and party lists, it was impossible to say whether the Socialists or Fidesz would form the next government.

``I think the situation is quite open,'' political analyst and pollster Istvan Stumpf told Reuters.

Tibor Vidos, analyst for GJW Political Consulting, said in an interview with Reuters Television that the voting system is so complex that even another Socialist-Free Democrat coalition was possible.

``The Socialists received almost exactly the same amount of votes as they received four years ago, so I don't think it's a major disaster for them,'' he said.

``It's their coalition partners, the Free Democrats, who received much less than four years ago.

``And I think we should not forget that the current government had an over two-thirds majority in the house, so what this election result certainly rectifies is that we will have a much more balanced showing of the left and right wings in the parliament,'' Vidos said.

The situation was further complicated by low turnout in two eastern counties, Hajdu-Bihar and Szabolcs-Szatmar, where less than 50 percent of registered voters cast their ballots.

The National Electoral Committee ruled the first round vote in those two counties was incomplete and would have to be re-run simultaneously with the second-round vote on May 24.

The decision made it impossible for the committee to announce final results for 152 regional seats in the 386-seat parliament, most if not all of which should have been allocated from the first-round, analysts said.

Unofficial tallies published in newspapers said that when the results of the first round become official, the Socialists will have won 49 first-round seats compared to 53 in 1994, while Fidesz would get 46 instead of seven.

Financial markets were put on edge by the results and Hungary's BUX share index slipped by 2.44 percent to close at 8,466.48 points Monday.

Most market analysts saw no major changes from a Fidesz government but noted that Fidesz and the Smallholders had talked about stiffer regulation of energy prices and of possibly doing away with Hungary's monthly crawling peg currency devaluator, introduced in 1995 to control what was then a runaway rate of inflation.

Adam Slater, analyst at Nomura Securities in London, told Reuters Television that some specific sectors were nervous of change but added: ``We're not going to see any dramatic changes in economic policy and Hungary will remain one of the best-run economies in the region.''

Political analyst Stumps said he did not think the results meant Hungary had shifted drastically to the right but instead meant that people wanted change.

``It meant people would like to see more change than the coalition parties imagined,'' he said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Japan movie on wartime PM Tojo draws sparks
10:55 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO, May 11 (Reuters) - Japan's most controversial film of recent times, a movie which portrays World War Two leader Hideki Tojo as a heroic ``samurai'' warrior rather than as a war criminal, was unveiled to the press on Monday.

Even before the film is released, North Korea and China have condemned it as a ``shameless'' effort to rewrite the past.

But its star, Masahiko Tsugawa, said the film is a way of renewing Japanese pride that vanished with the loss of the war.

``If this movie, which shows a unique Japanese spirit that disappeared at the end of the war, manages to give Japanese families and young people pride, we will have achieved something,'' he told a press conference sponsored by a conservative wing of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

``Pride - The Fateful Moment,'' was produced by major movie firm Toei Co and is set for release around Japan on May 23.

Based in part on writings of Tojo's 60-year-old granddaughter, it barely touches on his term as Japan's prime minister from 1941-44, instead centring on the Tokyo War Crimes Trial which ended in 1948.

The timing, 50 years after the trial ended and Tojo was executed by hanging, is no coincidence, Tsugawa said.

``I believe the Tokyo War Crimes Trial was unfair, and the truth of this will be revealed,'' he said.

Western judges and prosecutors are generally portrayed as short-tempered, scheming individuals focused mainly on pinning war responsibility on Tojo and his fellow defendants, whose attempts to relay the truth are deliberately foiled.

In one scene, a prosecutor responds to an American reporter's query about heavy censorship by saying that the most important thing is that Japan be restructured in such a way that it will not become a military threat to the West again.

The sole opposing voice is that of Radhabinod Pal, the justice representing India, who argued that it was virtually impossible for the defendants to receive a fair trial because they were being tried by a sort of ``victor's justice'' for acts which were not crimes at the time they were committed.

``The (verdict of) the Tokyo trials was wrong, hugely wrong,'' said Seisuke Okuno, a member of Japan's lower house of Parliament and former justice minister.

Asked about Nanjing, which the Japanese army sacked in 1937 in an infamous rampage of rape and killing, he said: ``Nanking was a fabrication. A complete falsehood. Because if it was true, why wasn't it brought up until the Tokyo trials?'' Nanking was then the Nationalist Chinese capital.

While some Western scholars have criticised as an oversimplification the lumping together of Tojo with his wartime allies Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, he personifies evil for many in Asia.

``We felt shocked and indignant over the fact that some people in Japan produced such a movie to whitewash aggression and sing the praises of Hideki Tojo,'' China's official Xinhua news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper termed the movie ``shameless'' in its attempt to whitewash the past.

Even Toei's own labour union has called the film to task for its disregard of history.

But Tsugawa said all the complaints were misplaced.

``China's protest is only a political thing. It has nothing to do with the movie.''

Military commentator Tadasu Kumagae said: ``While from a political sense, there's nothing about Tojo to emulate, I believe there are things you can learn from him as a person.

``He took responsibility without flinching and worked for the country and the Emperor, not himself. Unlike politicians today, who only seem to work for themselves,'' he added.

The movie's release date on May 23 is, ironically, the date on which Japan's Emperor will depart for a trip to Europe, including Britain, where several protests are already planned.

One lawmaker present at the screening said the movie was unlikely to prove a problem for the Emperor. ``After all, it's only a movie, isn't it? It's just one set of opinions.''

((Tokyo Newsroom +81-3-3432-8018

tokyo.newsroom+reuters.com)) ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Survivor defends alleged Lithuanian war criminal
07:00 a.m. May 11, 1998 Eastern

VILNIUS, May 11 (Reuters) - A Holocaust survivor has ruled out that accused Lithuanian war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis was a murderer, the newspaper Lietuvos rytas said on Monday.

Lileikis, 91 and in poor health, is awaiting trial on charges he handed over scores of Jews to Nazi death squads during World War Two -- the first court case of its kind in post-1991 independent Lithuania. He denies the charges.

``Aleksandras Lileikis saved me at the risk of his own life,'' Shifra Grodnikaite, one of the witnesses requested to testify in Lileikis' defence, told the newspaper.

``He was not a murderer. It is impossible to be silent. I want to defend him and I want him to know that.''

Lileikis' trial was postponed in March to allow the testimony of Grodnikaite and another defence witness to be gathered. The additional material is to be presented on May 18 and the trial is expected to begin in earnest in June.

Lileikis was head of the Vilnius security police during the war and it was in this capacity that he is accused of authorising the transfer of Jews to the hands of death squads.

Grodnikaite, who now lives in an old persons' home in Denver in the U.S. state of Colorado, said she was arrested in Vilnius at the beginning of the Nazi occupation and spent one year in prison.

When friends told the authorities she was not a Jew but the illegitimate daughter of a priest, she said it was Lileikis who was responsible for determining whether the evidence was true.

``But he (Lileikis), knowing my real background, pretended that I was a priest's daughter, although he could have finished me immediately,'' she told the newspaper.

Nazi hunters said her evidence did not change the facts.

``It might have some relevance in the sentencing phase, the ultimate punishment, but it does not change the basic fact that Lileikis played a key role in the Lithuanian administration of mass murder,'' Efraim Zuroff, head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, told Reuters.

Historians say Lithuania suffered one of the highest Holocaust killing rates in all of Europe, with some 96 percent of its 220,000-strong Jewish community murdered.

The trial of Lileikis would be the first of an accused Nazi war criminal in Lithuania since the country regained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Montana Freemen prosecutor wins Kennedy award
03:50 p.m May 11, 1998 Eastern

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Montana county prosecutor who defied death threats in pursuit of the Freemen anti-government group will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, the Kennedy family said Monday.

Garfield County Attorney Nickolas Murnion, who rallied a small Montana town to stand up to the extremist group and prosecuted the Freemen for advocating terrorism, will be presented the $25,000 prize by the Kennedy family on May 29.

Caroline Kennedy, the late president's daughter, said Murnion confronted the militia group even though they put a $1 million bounty on him.

``My father most admired those politicians who had the courage to make decisions of conscience without regard for the consequences,'' Kennedy said in a statement. ``Nick Murnion is a shining example of such courage.''

Murnion, 44, battled the Freemen for more than two years before they came to national attention during an 81-day standoff with the FBI that ended in June 1996.

Five Freemen were found guilty in late March on charges stemming from the standoff. Two leaders of the group are scheduled for trial May 26.

Murnion told Reuters he was honored by the award.

``I'm embarrassed because I've looked at prior winners. Frankly when they announced that I won I didn't even know I was nominated,'' he said.

The Profile in Courage Award, named after the late president's 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, is presented annually to a public official judged to have made principled decisions despite public opposition.

Previous winners have included U.S. Rep. Henry Gonzalez of Texas, former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker, and former New Jersey Gov. James Florio.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

FBI to give Argentina bombing report in month
08:45 p.m May 12, 1998 Eastern

By Robert Elliott

BUENOS AIRES, May 12 (Reuters) - The U.S. FBI will report its findings on a 1994 anti-Jewish bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 86 people to the Argentine government within a month, agency head Louis Freeh said on Tuesday.

``We will furnish within one month an analysis and recommendations from the investigation to the government of Argentina,'' Freeh said, adding that the FBI is confident the case will ultimately be solved by the Argentine authorities.

Freeh is on a Latin American swing including Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela to talk with officials about regional drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism and international criminal groups.

Earlier Tuesday Argentina's Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's top diplomatic representative to warn that relations between the two nations were getting rockier due to Iran's repeated failure to help in the bombing investigation, a Foreign Ministry source told Reuters.

Argentina has asked Iran four or five times for cooperation with the investigation because of alleged Iranian terrorist links with the bombing, the source said. ``Up to now there hasn't been a response,'' said the source. ``Argentina has justifiably grown a degree colder (toward Iran).''

Iran's former cultural attache was supposedly tied to the blast at the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Immediately after the incident an Argentine judge probing the case called for the arrest of four Iranian diplomats, but the warrants were turned down.

Both countries withdrew their ambassadors and diplomatic links have since stayed at the business attache level. Tuesday Iran's business attache met with the number three man at the Foreign Ministry, Eduardo Airaldi.

Despite its tone, the warning from Argentina ``does not signify a rupture'' in relations between the two countries, the source said.

The FBI's probe of the AMIA attack focused on whether it was ``sponsored by a particular group or a foreign state'' Freeh told reporters. The FBI's report, put together by counter-terrorism experts, will not be made public, he said.

Freeh is headed for Brazil Wednesday where he said he would talk about the tripartite border between that country, Argentina and Paraguay, which is a reputed den for smugglers and international terrorists.

``There's enough circumstantial and anecdotal evidence pointing to criminal acts and terrorism there (so) it needs to be addressed,'' said Freeh.

((Buenos Aires Newsroom, +541 318-0657 buenosaires.newsroom reuters.com)) REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Britain to outlaw racist abuse on soccer terraces
01:18 p.m May 12, 1998 Eastern

LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) - The British government on Tuesday pledged to make racist abuse by spectators at soccer matches a criminal offence, and called on the football authorities to tell players they will be sent off for such comments.

Sports Minister Tony Banks said the government would tighten the law as soon as parliamentary time was available in response to a report from its Football Task Force.

At present, fans on the terraces are liable to be prosecuted only if they indulge in racially-motivated chanting.

``The Football Offences legislation will be amended as soon as possible to make racist abuse by individuals an offence,'' Banks said in a written answer to a parliamentary question.

Meanwhile, he said, he has written to police chiefs urging them to do all they can under present laws to tackle the problem.

A spokesman for Banks said he had also written to the Football Association, the controlling body of British soccer, calling on it to implement another key recommendation in the report of the Football Task Force.

This was that on-pitch racist comments should be made a red card offence, meaning that the guilty player would take no further part in the game.

``It is essential that we all tackle the problems faced by young black and Asian players and supporters, and I am determined this report will be acted upon,'' Banks said.

English soccer has recently been peppered with allegations of racist abuse on the field.

Recently West Ham's Eyal Berkovic claimed he was the victim of anti-Semitic abuse in a match against Blackburn and Aston Villa striker Collymore accused Liverpool defender Steve Harkness of calling him ``a coon.''

Neither player proceeded with the allegations, which disappeared amid a flurry of claims and counter-claims made through the media. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

German police probe suspected far right gang
01:25 p.m May 12, 1998 Eastern

POTSDAM, Germany, May 12 (Reuters) - Prosecutors in eastern Germany said on Tuesday they were investigating 39 militant far-right extremists suspected of trying to form a criminal gang after weapons and ammunition were found in a police raid.

Prosecutors in Potsdam said they could not confirm German media reports that the suspected gang had been involved in paramilitary training exercises.

Police confiscated rifles, ammunition, explosives and more than 100 grenades dating back to World War Two during a raid last week on 40 flats in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt.

The 39 people were all members of several small far-right groups with links to each other, a spokeswoman for prosecutors said.

One of them was a man named as Kay Nando B, whom police say they had sought with an arrest warrant for escaping custody.

He was jailed for four and a half years in 1992 for being the ringleader of a neo-Nazi attack on an Angolan who died after a mob in the east German town of Eberswalde chased and beat him.

Among the other suspects were three skinheads who were convicted and sentenced to jail for a recent far-right attack on a youth club, the spokeswoman said.

An official of Germany's internal security office said on Sunday he feared far-right extremists could start carrying out attacks similar to those of the left-wing Red Army Faction that struck terror into the heart of the West German establishment in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hans-Juergen Foerster, head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the eastern state of Brandenburg, said German mercenaries who fought in the war in former Yugoslavia could be ready for this.

``I see a development that is moving towards terrorism,'' Foerster was quoted by Bild am Sonntag newspaper as saying.

But the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution said in its annual report released last week that while neo-Nazis and militant far-right extremists showed increasing potential for violence, they did not appear to be trying to set up armed resistance to overthrow the democratic system. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

German court starts CompuServe porn case
02:41 p.m May 12, 1998 Eastern

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - A German court opened proceedings Tuesday in a case that could define local responsibility for pornography available through the Internet.

After nearly three years of investigations and pretrial hearings, the former head of the German division of the CompuServe on-line service spent his first day in court to defend himself against charges of distributing child pornography and other illegal materials.

Prosecutors alleged that Felix Somm, 34, should be held responsible because CompuServe provided access in Germany to illegal pornographic pictures and Nazi texts that were available via the Internet from computers in other countries.

Somm, who left CompuServe last July and started his own electronic commerce consulting firm, told Reuters he expected to be cleared of the charges.

``I am convinced that this court process will prove my innocence,'' he said in a statement. ``The charges are based on a misunderstanding of the structure of the Internet and the role of service providers.''

Somm also said he notified German authorities about the illegal material and helped them in their investigation.

He was supported by a university professor who said the multimedia law that took effect last August made clear that on-line service providers are not responsible for the content of the Internet.

``The accused is not the originator of the illegal data, and intensively supported the Bavarian police in tracking down the originators,'' said Ulrich Sieber.

Under Germany's Information and Communications Law, Internet access providers generally are not held responsible for banned material on the Internet.

It requires companies that provide access and Internet content to take reasonable measures to block banned material, like Nazi literature.

According to Somm's attorneys, CompuServe provided its subscribers with software that blocks access to offensive material. They also claim the prosecution's charges are damaging to the development of the Internet in Germany.

The case was continued until May 28.

CompuServe is now a part of America Online Inc.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Jewish cemetery desecrated in central Romania
11:44 a.m. May 12, 1998 Eastern

BUCHAREST, May 12 (Reuters) - The central Romanian city of Targu Mures, shaken in the early post-communist era by ethnic clashes, has been hit by fresh trouble with the desecration of a Jewish cemetery, police said on Tuesday.

``We are pursuing an investigation to find out who scrawled anti-Semitic slogans on the cemetery walls at the weekend,'' Colonel Nicolae Rus said by telephone from Targu Mures, 350 km (220 miles) northwest of Bucharest.

He said police found Nazi swastikas and slogans reading ``Death to the Jews'' and ``Jews go to Israel.''

Bernath Sauber, leader of the town's ageing Jewish community that is now less than 200 strong, told the daily Adevarul that the incident was a ``sinister coincidence with May 1944, when 7,529 Jews were shipped in cattle trains to the Auschwitz and Birkenau death factories.'' He said only 1,197 returned.

Jews in Transylvania, under Hungarian control during World War Two, were deported en masse in the spring of 1944, days before the Soviet army passed through on its advance on Berlin.

Romania's pre-war Jewish population of 800,000 was halved by the Holocaust and reduced to 14,000 by mass emigration to Israel. Most of the remaining Jews are elderly.

The last major act against the Jewish community in Romania took place in 1995, when vandals overturned 100 gravestones in a Bucharest cemetery. Police said the act was committed by 12 boys 14 and under who had no anti-Semitic motives.

Officials said Targu Mures had no history of anti-Semitism.

``We were astonished when we learned about the incident, the first in more than 40 years,'' said Zamfira Pora, general secretary of the local government's office.

``Unlike Romanian-Hungarian relations, which were not always the best, there was never any anti-Semitic sentiment in Targu Mures. This incident has again put a black spot on the city.''

Targu Mures is in the centre of Transylvania, home to most of Romania's 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians. Only months after the December 1989 collapse of communism, Romanians and ethnic Hungarians waged pitched battles in the centre of the town killing six people and wounding dozens. ^[email protected]

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Major Jewish group seeks meeting with Clinton
02:14 p.m May 12, 1998 Eastern

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A major American Jewish group, saying it was concerned about a possible change in U.S. policy toward Israel, has asked for a meeting with President Bill Clinton to talk about the stalled peace process between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority.

The New York-based Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement on Monday night that it was drafting a letter to Clinton because ``recent events and statements by United States officials have given rise to significant concerns and have created perceptions of a shift in U.S. policy toward Israel.''

The Clinton administration had given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until Monday to agree to Washington's ultimatum for Israel to withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank. Netanyahu refused, saying it would imperil Israel's security, and the U.S. extended the deadline by two weeks.

In talks in London last week, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was unable to seal an agreement with Israel on the scope of withdrawals in return for stronger moves by the Palestinian Authority against Muslim militants.

``Putting forward specific percentages has created impressions that are inconsistent with previously enunciated positions and complicate the negotiations,'' the statement by the 55-member group said. ``On numerous occasions the president and other officials have assured the American Jewish community that the U.S. would not second-guess Israel on security concerns.

``The Conference believes that reaffirmation of those assurances would help restore confidence.''

The organization also said a statement by Hillary Rodham Clinton last week advocating a Palestinian state had created doubts about U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East.

The group said it accepted the administration disavowals of her statement, but added, ``However, the media, the world and particularly the Arab world, has received the first lady's statement as indicating a change in long-standing U.S. policy, preempting a vital final status issue.''

It called on Clinton to ``reiterate U.S. policy and remove any doubts'' and to tell Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state would violate the Oslo peace accords and would be rejected by Washington.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Pollard thankful Israel recognizes him as spy
10:45 a.m. May 12, 1998 Eastern

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew jailed for life in the United States for spying for Israel, said he was grateful the Jewish state had finally recognized him as its agent.

``I'm relieved, thankful and honored. Relieved that the truth has finally come out, thankful that the government had the courage and the integrity to acknowledge the truth, and honored that I am finally a full-fledged member of the state,'' Pollard told Israel's Channel Two in an interview aired on Tuesday.

``Now I have to come home,'' he said.

Israel officially announced Monday that Pollard had worked as its agent, 13 years after the Jewish state denied him sanctuary in its Washington embassy.

A statement from the prime minister's office said Pollard had acted as an Israeli agent and was handled by Lekem -- a bureau in the Defense Ministry that collected scientific material, sometimes covertly, from foreign sources.

Pollard was caught in 1985 after passing Israel information on Arab countries that he said the United States withheld from its Israeli ally.

Israel originally distanced itself from Pollard. But two years ago, the Israeli government made him a citizen as a public campaign intensified to win him official recognition as a spy.

Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh will visit Pollard in jail Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman said.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Estonia to investigate Soviet, Nazi criminals
09:33 a.m. May 13, 1998 Eastern

TALLINN, May 13 (Reuters) - The president of the small ex-Soviet state of Estonia launched a commission on Wednesday to examine crimes against humanity on its territory during the Soviet and Nazi occupations.

``The commission's main aim is to find answers to those questions of whether there are criminals walking free on our streets. If they are, Estonia's legal system must start dealing with them,'' President Lennart Meri told a news conference.

The commission will examine crimes against humanity between 1939 and 1991, a period filled with tragedy for this small nation of 1.5 million people.

In World War Two, the Holocaust killed 5,500 people, mostly Jews, while 37,000 others, mostly ethnic Estonians, were deported to Siberia by the Soviets and thousands died.

The Soviet annexation of Estonia and neighbours Latvia and Lithuania began in 1939 and they were forcibly incorporated under Moscow's rule in 1940.

The German occupation lasted from 1941 to 1944 but the three countries came back under Soviet rule in 1944.

The three only managed to escape Moscow's domination again in 1991 when the former Soviet Union collapsed.

Meri's initiative was supported by the leading Jewish organisation in the United States.

``For the last 50 years it has not been possible to see history clearly and I think that it has to become clearer and that everybody throughout the Baltics has to understand what happened in 1939 to 1991,'' said Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of the European relations department of the American Jewish Committee.

``This will not be an easy task but it is necessary to search and find justice to move ahead,'' Baker added.

Latvia and Lithuania have been criticised by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre for failing to do enough to bring alleged war criminals to book.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

French National Front condemns killing of Moroccan
05:57 p.m May 13, 1998 Eastern

PARIS, May 13 (Reuters) - The security director for the far-right National Front party on Wednesday condemned the killing of a Moroccan who died three years ago when a skinhead pushed him into the Seine and said his party was not to blame.

``Everyone knows this wasn't a racist act but a drinking session which went wrong,'' Bernard Courcelle told a court where skinhead Mickael Freminet is standing trial for the murder of 30-year old Brahim Bouarram.

``Some people would like us to carry the can for this...but there is no question of us condoning this sort of act,'' he added.

Freminet, 22, denies murder but admits he shoved Bouarram into the river shortly after taking part in the National Front's annual May Day rally in central Paris. He said earlier this week that Bouarram had insulted him, but added he never meant to kill the Moroccan.

Courcelle led the police to Freminet after an internal party inquiry uncovered his involvement in the death.

Bouarram's death, which occurred a week before the 1995 presidential election runoff, unleashed a wave of anti-racist anger and popular outrage against the National Front and its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

However Courcelle, who took over security operations at the Front in 1994, told the court his party had been misunderstood. ``We are for law and order. If the National Front was racist or xenophobic we would have been banned,'' he said.

French President Jacques Chirac branded the National Front as both racist and xenophobic in a television address to the nation earlier this year.

In the dock alongside Freminet are three other skinheads, David Parent, 21, Christophe Calame, 28, and David Halbin, 28, all accused of failing to come to the assistance of a person in danger. The trial is expected to end on Friday. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Bonn calls for united front against far right
10:11 a.m. May 13, 1998 Eastern

By Tara FitzGerald

BONN, May 13 (Reuters) - The German government official in charge of foreigners' affairs urged all political parties on Wednesday to join forces to defeat the threat of resurgent far right extremism ahead of September's federal election.

Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen's comments followed a conference of state and federal foreigners' affairs representatives, who discussed last month's shock gains by the far-right German People's Union (DVU) in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.

The DVU won 13 percent in an election there, reviving memories of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933 and prompting fears that Germany's conservative parties could be tempted to shift further to the right.

``Whoever uses the election success of the DVU in Saxony-Anhalt to manipulate the fears and prejudices of the German people is acting irresponsibly,'' Schmalz-Jacobsen told a news conference.

Schmalz-Jacobsen criticised Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), for moving to the right in its election campaign instead of taking a stance against extremist ideology.

The far right election success in east Germany, prompted the Bavarian party to call for a return to its conservative roots with tighter internal security and immigration policies.

Schmalz-Jacobsen urged citizens to oppose anti-foreigner sentiment. Teachers should not tolerate such sentiments in their pupils and police should not turn a blind eye to right-wing violence, she said.

It was important to confront the rise in support for the far right, rather than just ascribing it to a protest against mass unemployment and widespread economic misery -- particularly in the east, she said.

``If one writes it off as a protest vote then this will eventually have the same result as an outright ban on the DVU,'' she said.

``In other words, the ideological debate about the roots of right-wing extremism and ways to combat it will never take place.''

She also said some far-right parties, citing the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) as an example, had failed to distance themselves from the Nazi party and to condemn racist or politically-motivated violence.

Support for the far right was rising fast in east Germany, where the number of attacks on foreigners was nearly twice as high as in the west, she said.

``The NPD has nothing against violence and has not distanced itself from National Socialism (Nazism) in any way,'' she said.

``One third of NPD members come from eastern Germany, which already seems to be an indication of this,'' she said.

The NPD came the closest of any of the far-right parties to gaining representation at national level when it garnered 4.3 percent of the vote in 1969, falling just short of the five percent required to gain representation in parliament.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Argentina launches war-crime probe of second Croat
03:39 p.m May 14, 1998 Eastern

By Gary Regenstreif

BUENOS AIRES, May 14 (Reuters) - The Argentine government's anti-racism unit said on Thursday it would investigate a former Croatian honorary ambassador to Latin America for possible Nazi war crimes.

Victor Ramos, head of the official Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, told Reuters he wanted to study the Second World War activities of Ivo Rojnica, a textile manufacturer who has lived in Argentina since 1947.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization that hunts down Nazi fugitives, asked Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic during his visit to Israel this week to investigate Rojnica but was told there was insufficient evidence to seek his extradition.

Argentina, seeking to distance itself from its image as a haven for Nazis like Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Erich Priebke, will probe Rojnica itself.

``We will investigate immediately and call him to testify,'' Ramos said. ``If there are indications he committed war crimes, we don't want him in the country.''

Rojnica says he was the political leader of the city of Dubrovnik under Croatia's fascist Ustasha regime, a puppet of the Nazis during the war. A Croatian Embassy spokeswoman in Buenos Aires said she had no knowledge of his past.

The Wiesenthal Center says it has documentation showing that Rojnica imposed a curfew on Jews and Serbs. It adds there has been testimony accusing him of deporting Jews to death camps, but it has no written evidence to support that charge.

In 1991 Croatia named Rojnica ``plenipotentiary representative'' in Latin America. When it sought to formalize the position and name him ambassador in 1993, the Wiesenthal Center protested to Argentine President Carlos Menem.

``We wrote to Menem and warned him of the negative consequences this would bring Argentina,'' said Sergio Widder, the Wiesenthal representative for Latin America and a member of a government panel to study Nazi activities in Argentina. As a result of the center's protest, Croatia withdrew Rojnica's candidacy for ambassador, Widder said.

Rojnica could not immediately be reached for comment.

In an interview with La Nacion newspaper published on Thursday, Rojnica declared his innocence and insisted he had no choice but to limit the movement of Jews and others under orders given by the Nazis.

``Two-thirds of Europe was under the Nazis at that time, and you had to do what they asked,'' he said. ``I quit twice because I disagreed, but they rejected my resignation.''

He declined to comment on Dinko Sakic, the former concentration camp chief Argentina is expected to extradite to Croatia within days to face trial for alleged war crimes. Asked why, Rojnica said, ``Because I am a normal person.''

Sakic, 76, commanded the Jasenovac death camp, known as the ``Auschwitz of the Balkans.'' The number of Serbs, Gypsies and Jews killed there has long been disputed. Serbs put the death toll at 700,000, Jewish groups at 600,000 and Croatia at 85,000.

The government of Croatia apologized last August to Jews for crimes committed by the Ustasha government. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Jail term urged in French skinhead murder case
01:05 p.m May 14, 1998 Eastern

By Thierry Leveque

PARIS, May 14 (Reuters) - A state prosecutor on Thursday recommended a jail sentence of 10 to 12 years for a skinhead accused of killing a Moroccan man by pushing him into the Seine River after a far-right Paris political rally.

Defendant Mickael Freminet, 22, denied murdering 30-year-old Brahim Bouarram three years ago but admitted shoving him into the river and watching him bob in the swift current before leaving the scene accompanied by three other skinheads.

A verdict was due on Friday.

In closing arguments in the trial, which opened last week, prosecutor Philippe Bilger said Freminet could have saved Bouarram after pushing him after the xenophobic National Front party's annual May Day rally and parade.

``If he did not, it was because he intended to kill him...He thought the crime would win him the others' respect,'' he said.

Bilger said Freminet was ``a man of zero intelligence, motivated by a concentration of hate and resentment.''

``He took literally the message of hate propagated by his political family,'' the prosecutor said, faulting the National Front ``for failing to come to the rescue of those who are weak, and preventing them from acting on their instincts.''

For the three other skinheads in the dock, all charged with the lesser crime of failing to help a person in danger, Bilger recommended jail sentences of one to two years, with another one to two years suspended.

The three are David Halbin, 28, David Parent, 21, and Christophe Calame, 28.

National Front security director Bernard Courcelle told the court on Wednesday the Front condemned the Moroccan's killing but blamed the crime on excess alcohol rather than racism.

``Everyone knows this wasn't a racist act but a drinking session which went wrong,'' Courcelle testified.

``Some people would like us to carry the can for this...but there is no question of us condoning this sort of act,'' he added.

Courcelle led the police to Freminet after an internal party inquiry uncovered his involvement in the death.

Bouarram's death, which occurred a week before the 1995 presidential election runoff, unleashed a wave of anti-racist anger and popular outrage against the Front and its fiery leader Jean Marie Le Pen.

However, Courcelle, who took over security operations at the Front in 1994, told the court his party had been misunderstood. ``We are for law and order. If the National Front was racist or xenophobic we would have been banned,'' he said.

French President Jacques Chirac branded the Front as racist and xenophobic in a television address to the nation in March.

The French National Assembly's Laws Committee recommended on Thursday that parliament set up a special committee to investigate Courcelle's Department of Protection and Security (DPS), which operates as the National Front's security arm.

Committee members said the DPS, which protects Le Pen and other party leaders during public appearances, was believed to train its members in combat, provide them with unauthorised arms, encourage violence and threaten France's democratic institutions.

Once approved by the assembly, the 30-member panel would have six months to prepare a report and recommendations. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Delays raise doubts over Berlin Holocaust memorial
06:41 a.m. May 14, 1998 Eastern

BONN, May 14 (Reuters) - Germany's parliamentary speaker was quoted by a newspaper on Thursday as saying she doubted whether a controversial Holocaust memorial in the centre of Berlin would be built.

Plans for the monument, intended to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, have provoked emotional debate and criticism in Germany and the choice of a final design has been a serious stumbling block.

A winning blueprint was to be announced in March, but official silence surrounding the project has led to speculation it may not go ahead.

``The prospects for it are not positive,'' said Rita Suessmuth, speaker of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament), according to the Berliner Morgenpost daily.

Suessmuth was not immediately available for comment.

Jewish groups in Germany and elsewhere at first supported the project, but later criticised the designs for failing to convey the horror and the gravity of the Jews' fate.

Suessmuth warned last month against any further delay in planning the monument, saying this could lead to a victory for those who wanted to forget the Holocaust altogether.

The German government said last month it was confident plans to build the memorial would go ahead despite delays.

It said more meetings had been scheduled to pick a winning design, the favourite being a graveyard-like labyrinth of 4,000 concrete pillars up to 7.5 metres (24 feet) tall by New York-based architect Peter Eisenman and sculptor Richard Serra.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl favours their design, but Berlin's mayor, Eberhard Diepgen, and other city officials have said it is inappropriate.

The project cannot go ahead until the three groups involved -- the federal government, the Berlin city government and a private lobby group that initiated the plan -- approve a final design.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

Jews decry Russian anti-Semitism after bomb
05:01 p.m May 14, 1998 Eastern

By Gareth Jones

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Israeli embassy and Jewish religious leaders Thursday denounced the bombing of a Moscow synagogue as a sign of rising anti-Semitism in Russia and urged the authorities to clamp down on racist violence.

The explosion ripped through the Lubavitch Marina Roshcha synagogue in central Moscow shortly after 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. Nobody was seriously hurt in the blast, which police said was triggered by 1.1 pounds of high explosive.

``Israel condemns this act of sacrilege directed against the Jewish community,'' the country's embassy said in a statement.

Ambassador Tsvi Magen told Ekho Moskvy radio he was seeking a meeting with federal and civic leaders and said Russia was not doing enough to stamp out religious and ethnic hatred.

``Both in Russia and in other former Soviet republics the activity of pro-fascist organizations not only exists but is increasing,'' Magen said.

Prominent media and business tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, who heads the Russian Jewish Congress, also took Russia's leaders to task, saying they were too complacent about the popularity of Nazi symbols and slogans among sections of the country's youth.

``Things have started to take a frightful turn for Russia when people walk around with swastikas in a country that lost more than 20 million people in the war and where people declare nationalist slogans in a country where every second child comes from a mixed marriage,'' Gusinsky told Russian television.

President Boris Yeltsin condemned the blast as an act of ``barbarism'' and said he expected the police to spare no effort in finding the culprits, Interfax news agency reported.

Despite its heroic resistance to Nazi Germany in World War II, Russia has a long history of anti-Semitism. Some opposition politicians, voicing popular discontent with painful market reforms, have drawn on that history to criticize influential Jewish figures in post-Soviet Russian politics and business.

Moscow's Jews went ahead with a planned parade Thursday to mark the Lag B'Omer holiday.

``Today is our Lag B'Omer holiday, a happy holiday...We're going to parade through the streets to show the pride of the Jewish people and that we are not afraid,'' Rabbi Berel Lazar told Reuters.

Hundreds of people, including many in the traditional dark attire of Orthodox Jews, joined the parade, singing and dancing in a festive spirit that contrasted sharply with the devastation at the synagogue.

Lazar said about 70 children and teachers had left the synagogue just before the explosion. ``It was a plain miracle, they were saved by minutes,'' he said.

Police said one worker building a Jewish community center was slightly injured in the explosion, which shattered windows in nearby buildings and destroyed one wall of the synagogue, a modern brick building.

The Lubavitch Marina Roshcha synagogue was previously the target of a bombing in August 1996 and an arson attack in 1993 that destroyed an original wooden temple which had survived the Soviet repression of religion.

Lazar said no prosecution had ever been brought for the two earlier attacks on the synagogue and the city authorities had not kept promises of tighter security.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


TOP

FOCUS-Israel, Jews warn on Russian anti-Semitism
10:13 a.m. May 14, 1998 Eastern

By Gareth Jones

MOSCOW, May 14 (Reuters) - The Israeli embassy and Jewish religious leaders on Thursday denounced the bombing of a Moscow synagogue as a sign of rising anti-Semitism in Russia and urged the authorities to clamp down on racist violence.

The explosion ripped through the Lubavitch Marina Roshcha synagogue in central Moscow shortly after 11 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Wednesday. Nobody was seriously hurt in the blast, which police said was triggered by half a kg (1.1 lb) of high explosive.

``Israel condemns this act of sacrilege directed against the Jewish community,'' the country's embassy said in a statement.

Ambassador Tsvi Magen told Ekho Moskvy radio he was seeking a meeting with federal and civic leaders and said Russia was not doing enough to stamp out religious and ethnic hatred.

``Both in Russia and in other former Soviet republics the activity of pro-fascist organisations not only exists but is increasing,'' Magen said.

Prominent media and business tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, who heads the Russian Jewish Congress, also took Russia's leaders to task, saying they were too complacent about the popularity of Nazi symbols and slogans among sections of the country's youth.

``Things have started to take a frightful turn for Russia when people walk around with swastikas in a country that lost more than 20 million people in the war and where people declare nationalist slogans in a country where every second child comes from a mixed marriage,'' Gusinsky told Russian television.

Despite its heroic resistance to Nazi Germany in World War Two, Russia has a long history of anti-Semitism, exacerbated during the past few years of painful market reforms by the presence of many Jews in the higher echelons of politics and business.

The U.S. embassy also condemned Wednesday's bombing of the Marina Roshcha synagogue.

``The blast marred the civility of life in Russia's capital. We hope the Russian people and their leaders will find ways of demonstrating revulsion against such a display of mindless hatred,'' it said in a statement.

Uncowed by the bombers, Moscow's Jews defiantly went ahead with a planned street parade to mark the Lag B'Omer holiday.

``Today is our Lag B'Omer holiday, a happy holiday...We're going to parade through the streets to show the pride of the Jewish people and that we are not afraid,'' Rabbi Berel Lazar told Reuters.

Hundreds of people, including many in the traditional dark attire of Orthodox Jews, joined the parade, singing and dancing in a festive spirit that contrasted sharply with the devastation at the synagogue.

Lazar said about 70 children and teachers had left the synagogue just before the explosion. ``It was a plain miracle, they were saved by minutes,'' he said.

Police said one worker building a Jewish community centre was slightly injured in the blast, which shattered windows in nearby buildings and destroyed one wall of the synagogue, a modern brick building.

The Lubavitch Marina Roshcha synagogue was the target of an earlier bombing in August 1996 and an arson attack in 1993 that destroyed an original wooden temple that had survived the Soviet repression of religion.

Lazar said no prosecution had ever been brought for the two earlier attacks on the synagogue and the city authorities had not kept promises of tighter security.

Russia, home to one of the world's biggest Jewish communities, has seen a reopening of synagogues since the end of communist repression.

But decades of official atheism have left many Russian Jews with little knowledge of their faith, while many have used the new freedom to travel to emigrate to Israel.

The U.S.-based Lubavitch movement runs educational and social service institutions throughout the former Soviet Union.

The Marina Roshcha synagogue remained open in Soviet times although religious groups faced persecution. ``Lubavitch has weathered the worst of times in Russia's history and we have only persevered and grown stronger,'' Lazar said. REUTERS

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.


Back to Top of Page
Earlier News
More recent News
Back to News Main Page