Wednesday, March 2, 2016

German court weighs ban on neo-Nazi party

Germany's highest court began hearing Tuesday a landmark request to ban a neo-Nazi fringe party that openly rails against migrants, more than a decade after a first attempt failed.

The case before the Federal Constitutional Court argues that the far-right and anti-­immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD) is a threat to the country's liberal democratic order.

Constitutional court chief justice Andreas Vosskuhle opened the hearing by saying that the hurdles are high to ban any political party, something Germany last did almost 60 years ago.

A party prohibition "is a sharp and double-edged sword that must be used with great caution," he told the packed courtroom. "It limits freedom in order to preserve freedom."

The bid to ban the party, including its women's and youth wings, to seize its funds and prohibit successor ­organizations, will require a majority of six out of the ­panel's eight judges, who were set to initially sit for three days and later issue their verdict.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government supports the case, although it has not formally joined the high-stakes legal gamble launched by the upper house of parliament that represents Germany's 16 states.

Merkel, through her spokesperson Steffen Seibert, has ­repeatedly labeled the NPD "an anti-­democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-constitutional party."

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