Right-winger may face charges in Jewish row

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The Independent Online
THE LEADER of Germany's extreme-right Republican party, Franz Schonhuber, might face prosecution in Bavaria for his remarks about the leader of Germany's Jewish community, on whom he renewed his attacks yesterday.

After presumed right-wing extremists set fire to a synagogue in the northern town of Lubeck last week, Mr Schonhuber argued that Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the Central Council of Jews, was himself 'one of the worst inciters of disorder', because he had described extreme-right parties in Germany as the 'spiritual arsonists'.

Mr Schonhuber sued Mr Bubis for slander and incitement on 4 March, after Mr Bubis said he was one of the intellectual authors behind neo-Nazi violence.

Mr Schonhuber's remarks were immediately condemned by politicians from parties across the political spectrum, with suggestions that he should be 'put behind bars'. On Monday, Mr Bubis had said that he did not intend to sue Mr Schonhuber for his remarks. Yesterday's dogged insistence by Mr Schonhuber that 'I do not take a single word back' seems likely, however, to inflame the issue further.

In Bavaria, the Justice Ministry said the possibility of prosecuting Mr Schonhuber was being investigated, for possible incitement to disorder. His immunity as a member of the European Parliament would have to be lifted for such a prosecution to go ahead.

Yesterday, the Bavarian Prime Minister, Edmund Stoiber, of the conservative Bavarian sister party of the ruling Christian Democrats, the CSU, argued that the Republicans were 'beyond all human and political decency'. Klaus Kinkel, the German Foreign Minister, has warned: 'After this unbelievable attack, we cannot simply move on to a daily agenda.'

By chance, nobody was hurt in the attack on the synagogue. Six people sleeping upstairs escaped to safety, and the fire brigade quickly extinguished the blaze. The charge is likely to be one of attempted murder, rather than simple arson; there have been no arrests so far.

The attack on the synagogue came at a sensitive time. Yesterday, extreme right-wingers went on trial in Bautzen, in east Germany, accused in connection with the death of a man in the town of Hoyerswerda. Next month, the trial begins of those accused of firebombing a house in Solingen, near Dusseldorf, last year, when five Turkish women and girls died.

There has been recent controversy, too, following a court judgment which ruled that the proclamation of the Auschwitzluge, or 'Auschwitz lie' - in other words, the denial of the Holocaust - is not, in itself, a prosecutable offence. There have been widespread calls for tougher legislation to make prosecution easier.

(Photograph omitted)