Government moves to ban suspected neo-Nazi party

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BERLIN - The government pressed ahead Thursday with efforts to ban an extreme-right party that has become a magnet for neo-Nazi skinheads as police questioned one of its youth leaders in the bombing of a Turkish-owned restaurant.

No one was injured in the early morning blast, which shattered the glass door of a snack bar in the eastern city of Eisenach. But the attack sent renewed shudders across Germany.

''I've never had problems with Germans till now,'' Yilmaz Alkan said as he surveyed the damage to the business he's run for five years. ''They're really good customers. But now I'm worried for my wife and my two children.''

Shortly after the explosion, police took a 19-year-old into custody after he was spotted near the scene. Police spokesman Detlef Kasch said the youth, Patrick Wischke, was considered the prime suspect, but had denied involvement.

Wischke is known to police as the local leader of the youth wing of the extreme-right National Democratic Party of Germany. He has been convicted several times for causing bodily harm in fights.

German politicians are considering a ban on the National Democratic Party of Germany as part of an effort to stem the surge in neo-Nazi violence.

Electorally insignificant, the party known as the NPD nonetheless has become the most visible far-right party, through skinhead rallies and marches. Especially in the depressed, former communist east, unemployed and disillusioned youth, attracted to drunken camaraderie, buy into the party's anti-foreigner message.

''The NPD has completely changed in the past two or three years from an old man's club to a collecting pool for aggressive neo-Nazis,'' said Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein, who is leading the push for a ban ''to take away this crystallization point of the violence.''

Other leaders, however, expressed skepticism about whether a ban would be effective.

''One can't ban political muddle-headedness,'' said Hesse state governor Roland Koch.

After a second telephone conference call Wednesday night, a state and federal group led by the Interior Ministry in Berlin was to meet Friday to examine whether to ban the NPD.

Interior Ministry official Brigitte Zypries said a report was expected by mid-October so a decision could be made at a November conference.

Shocked by the increasing frequency of xenophobic and anti-Semitic violence, including bombings and three fatal beatings so far this year, civic leaders have appealed for police and courts to crack down on neo-Nazis and for the public to get involved in thwarting such attacks.

In a sign of determination, a court in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam convicted a 37-year-old man of inciting racial hatred and using illegal Nazi slogans just 10 hours after he was arrested for shouting ''Sieg Heil'' and ''Jews out'' from his apartment window in the middle of the night.

The man was ordered to pay a fine, and was placed on eight months probation.


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