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German prosecutor investigating Pegida for hate speech and Facebook over xenophobic posts

23.10.2015 6:37
In Dresden thousands of people took to the streets on 19 October 2015 to protest the German anti-immigrant movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (Pegida). (PHOTO:  Screen shot from YouTube.com)
In Dresden thousands of people took to the streets on 19 October 2015 to protest the German anti-immigrant movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (Pegida). (PHOTO: Screen shot from YouTube.com)

The German Prosecutor has begun an investigation of those who gave speeches at a demonstration Monday by the anti-immigrant movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) in front of the Opera House in Dresden that was attended by approximately 20 000 people. One speaker there expressed regret that Germany no longer runs any concentration camps.

German politicians are calling for Pegida to be investigated by counter-intelligence and some are even saying the movement should be banned. However, most residents of Dresden, according to polls by the Technical University, have a positive relationship toward asylum-seekers.

Akif Pirincci, a German citizen of Turkish origin, gave a speech to the Pegida assembly in which he harshly criticized Muslims. He concluded with this statement:  "Naturally there might be other possibilities, but the concentration camps are currently no longer working, unfortunately."

The state prosecutor in Dresden is now investigating Pirincci on suspicion of inciting hatred toward a particular group. His remark is yet another in a series of extremist displays that have occurred in connection with Pegida recently.

Last week a promoter of the movement brought a mock-up of a gallows to a demonstration that had pieces of paper with the names of Chancellor Merkel and Vice-Chancellor Gabriel written on pieces of paper next to the noose. Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann has previously published photographs of himself online in which he is made up to look like Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

German politicians are condemning Pegida because of all this. Ralf Stegner, the Vice-Chair of the Social Democrats (SPD), who are currently in Government, has now called on the German intelligence services to begin surveillance of the movement.

"The Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) should follow these attempts to disrupt the Constitution. It would be worth it to review, for example, whether the conveners of the Pegida demonstrations are acting in accordance with the Constitution," Stegner told the daily Die Welt.

The BfV fulfills the function of a civilian counter-intelligence service and focuses primarily on displays of Isamlist, left-wing and right-wing extremism. Ansgar Heveling, anMP for Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has even proposed the Government find a way to ban the Pegida movement.

The state Interior Ministers of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have objected to that proposal, saying citizens' rights to demonstrate must be preserved. They have, however, condemned hate speech at protests, which in their view is helping to incite violence in the country.

In Dresden on Monday evening approximately 20 000 adherents of Pegida and 14 000 opponents of the movement demonstrated and clashes occurred. According to German politicians both in and out of Government, the movement has radicalized and the degree of hatred at these demonstrations has crossed the line.

MPs from the Czech Republic's "Dawn of Direct Democracy" movement (Úsvit) who participated in the Dresden event on the side of Pegida are claiming it was a friendly, peaceful demonstration. TV Nova, the Czech Republic's biggest commercial broadcaster, reported that several hundred people from the Czech Republic joined the Pegida demonstration and that Czech MPs from Úsvit were among them including Marek Černoch, who gave a speech.

According to a representative survey performed by the Technical University in Dresden, most residents there are still understanding of asylum-seekers and have a positive attitude toward them. Roughly 41 % of respondents to that survey support an open approach to migrants.

"There is polarization here," admitted the head of the study, Stefan Fehser, in an interview with the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). Every fifth respondent displayed a clear rejection of asylum-seekers.

As many as 39 % of respondents were not decided on whether to sympathize with immigrants or not. "Civil society and the political establishment will have to take care of these people," Fehser emphasized.

Pegida's protest on Monday marked the first anniversary of its establishment. An estimated 14 000 people also turned out to oppose Pegida.

DPA reported that four separate marches of those opposing Pegida flowed into the historical center of the Saxon city along different streets, converging at the same point. Organizers said the anti-Pegida march that began at the Technical University involved more than 5 000 people.

Anti-Pegida marchers who began at the central train station were said to number 1 000.  Saxon Interior Minister Markus Ulbig assured the public that a large number of police had been deployed to the streets.

"We have more than 1 000 officers on duty and we have backup from six other states and the Federal Police," he said. The authorities were counting on around 20 000 people altogether participating in the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.

DPA reported that clashes did occur during which firecrackers were thrown. Police managed to keep the two camps separated.

Police used pepper spray against anti-Pegida demonstrators who assaulted some officers. One person was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The Sachsischen Zeitung newspaper reported the victim was a Pegida supporter attacked on his way to the assembly by someone wielding a metal rod. Russia Today television reported on its website that Pegida adherents assaulted RT cameraman Jose Sequeira as he attempted to film the assembly.

Allegedly they beat the journalist up and smashed his camera after pushing him to the ground. He was reportedly saved by police officers who drove his attackers away and was not injured.

The Saxon state government called on all participants in the demonstration to remain non-violent. Several German politicians joined the protest against Pegida.

The head of the German Green Party, Simone Peter, spoke on the Altmarkt square in the city center and called for Germans to view refugees as people who will enrich the country. "We want a Germany that is open to to the world," she said.

The Opera House itself greeted the adherents of Pegida by projecting slogans of disagreement with them on its large-format outdoor video screen. "We are not a staging ground for xenophobia" and "We are not a backdrop for intolerance" were the messages that alternated on the lighted screen.

German Prosecutor investigates Facebook for xenophobic posts

Deutsche Welle Radio reports that the State Prosecutor in Hamburg has begun an investigation of Facebook on suspicion of aiding the dissemination of hateful messages against asylum-seekers. The social networking site is said to have allegedly committed this act by not erasing the xenophobic posts of its users.

A law firm from Würzburg in Bavaria has filed a motion with the prosecutor against the company. The firm says Facebook is leaving posts online that are openly racist or that assault human dignity.

"Facebook keeps pretending that nothing is wrong [with these posts]. Other cases demonstrate that when Facebook wants to, it gladly erases posts," the motion states.

The prosecutor has launched an investigation of the social network on suspicion of abetting incitement against a particular group. According to the spokesperson for the state prosecutor, it is an open question whether the investigation will result in a specific criminal charge.

In August German Justice Minister Heiko Maas criticized Facebook's approach to posts with xenophobic content. Maas said the social networking site was applying a double standard to the erasing of posts.

Facebook automatically removes any posts featuring naked people, for example. The minister said that racist, xenophobic posts remain accessible even after other users bring them to the company's attention.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Demonstrace, Germany, Immigration, Neo-Nazism, Pegida, radikálové, Facebook



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