'Foreigner hunt' charges

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The Independent Online
AN alleged ringleader of extreme-right violence in the east German town of Magdeburg was yesterday charged in connection with rioting there last Thursday night. Charges against others were imminent.

There is criticism of the police failure to act more swiftly to end the violence. Wolfgang Thierse, deputy leader of the opposition Social Democrats, accused the police of 'very serious failures' and suggested that the release of dozens of suspected rioters, for lack of immediate evidence, had been 'an invitation to the next act of violence'.

President Richard von Weizsacker has said that it was difficult to understand that hooligans or right-wing extremists could run riot in this way. 'Fifty or more are arrested - and then the same evening, they are all released again. Are they supposed to go and do the same thing, the next day?', he said. The incident, which lasted several hours, began when right-wing youths pursued five Africans into a Turkish-owned cafe, in what was officially described as a 'hunt for foreigners'.

A 24-year-old German who suffered stab wounds and a brain haemorrhage was yesterday in a critical condition. The man was said not to have been one of the rioters; he was sitting in a bar when attacked.

The German parliament is due to vote this week on a package that includes tougher measures against far-right violence, though critics of the legislation say that the problem is not with the laws but with the failure to implement them properly.

One element of the new legislation is a proposed maximum three-year jail sentence for the so-called 'Auschwitz lie' - the denial of the Holocaust. Until now, the circumstances in which the denial of the Holocaust was an offence remained unclear.