Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Leipzig Far-Right Rally Dropped

Laura Smith-Spark, BBC News:
A far-right rally planned to coincide with Wednesday's Iran-Angola World Cup match in Leipzig is not going ahead. Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD) said it would support Iran in the finals due to the anti-Israel stance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There were fears a protest would be a flashpoint for trouble.

But city officials say the NPD did not apply for a permit to march while the party says it will now "spread its message through creative publicity".

Protesters against anti-Semitism will, however, demonstrate outside the city's supreme court building. READ MORE

Peaceful demonstrations have already taken place in each of the cities where Iran has played.

About 1,000 people, among them Israel supporters and exiled Iranians, rallied in Nuremberg when Iran played its opening World Cup match against Mexico, losing 3-1.

A similar number joined a pro-Israel demonstration in Frankfurt on Saturday, where the Iranian team was defeated 2-0 by Portugal.


Iran's game there will be its last in the competition, since it has failed to qualify for the second round.

Some 10,000 Iranian fans, up to 6,000 Angola supporters and tens of thousands of fans from Germany and elsewhere are expected to watch the match at the city's Zentralstadion and public viewing areas.

More than 65,000 people of Iranian origin live in Germany, some of whom may travel to the city to support their team.

The proposed march in Leipzig had been identified as a potential flashpoint for trouble ahead of the World Cup because far-right groups have a greater support base in eastern Germany's Brandenburg and Saxony states.

Far-right demonstrators have clashed with police and left-wing counter-protesters at May Day and 3 October rallies in Leipzig in recent years.


The chief of police in the state of Saxony, Klaus Fleischmann, says he will field as many as 2,000 police in Leipzig while football supporters are in the city.

But Leipzig city authorities have played down the likelihood of potentially violent demonstrations taking place on Wednesday.

"There will be no NPD march - at least no legal one - and we do not believe there will be an illegal one either," city spokesman Christoph Sorger said.

It was anticipated the protest against anti-Semitism - and by implication the anti-Israel views of Iran's president - would be "completely peaceful", he said.

Mr Ahmadinejad is not expected to visit Leipzig for the game, he added.

The Iranian president's suggestion that he might come to Germany to watch his country's team play has caused outrage among some Jewish organisations in Germany.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that his country would have to accept a visit by Mr Ahmadinejad if he decided to come.

One of Iran's seven vice-presidents, Mohammad Aliabadi, attended the national team's match in Frankfurt.

Germany's Central Council of Jews described his presence there as a provocation.

In a statement on the NPD website, party spokesman for Saxony, Matthias Paul, says: "The NPD Saxony regional organisation and its associated groups have not announced any plans to demonstrate during the football World Cup in Leipzig.

"Instead, the party wants to spread its message through creative publicity in Leipzig during the World Cup."