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The BBC's Fiona Werge
"A final decision on a ban could take up to two years"
 real 56k

Friday, 10 November, 2000, 21:34 GMT
German Senate backs neo-Nazi ban
candle protest
Two girls hold candles as part of an anti-fascist demonstration in Germany on Thursday
The upper house of Germany's Parliament, the Bundesrat, has voted to back attempts to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).

The cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had already decided to ask the country's Constitutional Court to outlaw the party, which it holds responsible for inciting attacks against foreigners which have left six people dead this year.

The court could have acted on the application of the cabinet alone, but Mr Schroeder said he wanted to present a united front of cabinet and both houses of Parliament.

The Bundesrat debate came the day after 200,000 people rallied in Berlin to protest against racism.

Conflicting signs

Leading politicians, including Chancellor Schroeder and President Johannes Rau, joined Jewish leaders, opposition figures and celebrities such as tennis star Steffi Graf for the march, which the chancellor called a "revolt of the decent".
Gerhard Schroder
Schroeder's government is trying to ban the NPD

But just a day before the march, the e-mail address of a group of Jewish students in Germany was flooded with more than 17,000 messages threatening to repeat the Holocaust, the Associated Press reported.

The e-mails reportedly originated from a server in the United States, making it impossible for German police to investigate the incident as a violation of German anti-hate crime laws.

Lower house dissents

Despite the Bundesrat decision to back the NPD ban, Germany's lower house, the Bundestag, may not debate the issue at all.

Some parties, including the small liberal group the Free Democrats, say the evidence against the NPD is weak.

They apparently fear that a failed attempt to ban the party would, in effect, give the NPD a clean bill of health.

The Constitutional Court is expected to give some feedback on the merit of the application to ban the NPD before Christmas, but an actual legal ruling could easily take years.

Tiny party

The NPD, a fringe party with just 6,000 members, favours policies benefiting ethnic Germans and an end to new immigration.
NDP demonstrators
The NDP would be the first party banned since the 1950s

It has become associated in recent years with young skinheads.

To make the ban effective, the government must show the constitutional court that the NPD poses a threat to democracy in Germany.

Only two political parties have been banned in post-war Germany.

The successor to the Nazi Party was outlawed immediately after the war, and the Communist Party was banned in West Germany in the 1950s.

About a dozen other organisations have been outlawed, including the far-right Hamburgersturm (Hamburg Attack) and the British-based Blood and Honour group.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Europe
In pictures: German rally
14 Sep 00 | Europe
Germany bans neo-Nazi group
03 Sep 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Race hate in Germany
12 Aug 00 | Europe
German alert over Nazi marches
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