World News

FRANCE | Marine Le Pen's Bengal cat 'savaged by father's Doberman dog'

Wednesday, 1 October 2014, 23:32 | Source: The Telegraph |

Marine Le Pen has moved out of the chateau estate she shared with her father Jean-Marie, the firebrand founder of the far-Right Front National in France, after one of his Doberman dogs reportedly killed one of her Bengal cats.

Miss Le Pen, who has toned down her party's anti-immigrant rhetoric since she took the helm in 2011, recently took her remaining cats and fled the Montretout domain to move to a new residence nearby, L'Express magazine claimed.

The weekly gave few details of the incident beyond saying that Mr Le Pen's dogs are still kept at Montretout even though the former leader, whose pugnacious manner led critics to compare him to a bulldog, currently lives in another Paris suburb.

Miss Le Pen had been living in one of the buildings – but not in the main chateau – until her beloved cat was mauled to death, it was claimed.

Her niece, Marion Le Pen, a 24-year-old Front National MP, is reportedly planning to move with her family into the property left vacant by the party leader, who polls say could beat President François Hollande in the next presidential election in 2017.

Marine Le Pen's chief press spokesman refused to confirm or deny the alleged killing by the Doberman. "This is a serious political party. We do not comment on nonsense like that," Alain Vizier told the Telegraph.

It was unclear if the alleged feline death sparked tension within the Le Pen clan.

The family usually presents a united front, but there was a spectacular departure from that stance in June when Jean-Marie Le Pen publicly said the Front National under his 46-year-old daughter's leadership had turned into a "bizarre", insipid, mainstream and conformist party like any other.

Yet with her at the helm, support for the party has grown rapidly. Last weekend, it made a third political breakthrough, after strong showings in municipal and European elections, when it won its first ever seats in the French senate, or upper house of parliament, as the ruling Socialists and their Left-wing allies lost their majority to Right-wing parties.

Miss Le Pen may be cruising towards ever-greater political power but she has been brought to a halt on France's roads after police confiscated her driving license for incurring one too many speeding tickets.

The party leader, who has denounced police speed cameras as "another tax disguised as a life-saving campaign", confirmed a press report on Wednesday that she was no longer allowed to drive.

But she said she had taken the punishment in 2012 to prevent the real culprits from getting into trouble.

"Not wishing to denounce those who were responsible, I saw my licence go up in smoke," she said, after the Le Canard Enchainé newspaper ran an article headlined: "Marine wants to steer France but she no longer has a licence."

She said if the newspaper's journalists had checked the photos of the traffic offences in question they would have seen she was not behind the wheel.

With 12 penalty points on her licence she had either to resit her driving test, a lengthy and costly affair in France, or go to court to contest the matter.

She chose the latter option and is expecting the case to go to court later this year, according to her lawyer.

An opinion poll last month said that Miss Le Pen would beat all her rivals in the first round of a presidential election, and that she would come streets ahead of President Francois Hollande.

GERMANY | 'SS' German guards with links to neo-Nazi groups abused asylum seekers

Wednesday, 1 October 2014, 23:23 | Source: The Telegraph |

Two members of a private security firm hold down a handcuffed 20-year-old Algerian refugee at a refugee center in Burbach

Two members of a private security firm hold down a handcuffed 20-year-old Algerian refugee at a refugee center in Burbach Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

German security guards who called themselves the “SS” and had tattoos linking them to neo-Nazi groups abused asylum-seekers at a refugee centre, according to reports.

Germany reacted with shock this week when a photograph emerged showing a security guard posing with his foot on the neck of a handcuffed asylum-seeker. A video showed guards forcing another asylum-seeker to lie on a mattress covered in vomit.

A former guard has now given an interview in which he says the guards at the refugee centre in North Rhine-Westphalia referred to themselves as the “SS”, in reference to the Nazi organisation, and some of them had links to neo-Nazi groups.

The former guard’s disclosures come amid reports that one of those implicated in the abuse had a tattoo of a known neo-Nazi slogan on his arm.

The case has prompted comparisons with the torture of prisoners by US guards at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The security company responsible for the refugee centre, in the town of Burbach, has already had its contract cancelled, while three of its former employees are under investigation for abuses.

Another former employee, named only as Ralf S, told Siegerland Kurier, a local newspaper, that the guards were allowed to lock asylum-seekers who broke the centre’s rules in a “problem room”, where a mattress was the only furniture and there was no access to lavatory facilities.

They could be sent there for such minor infractions as smoking or drinking alcohol, and were sometimes locked up so long they had to resort to urinating out of the window.

Some of his colleagues were “really keen” to put asylum-seekers in the problem room, the guard told the newspaper.

“They would go all over the hallways and sniff doors,” he said. “If they smelled cigarette smoke, they stormed the room.” He told the newspaper he saw a “clearly visible far right background” in some of his colleagues.

His remarks echo those of another former guard who told Spiegel magazine of “clearly far right sentiments” among the security staff.

One of the former guards under investigation in the case, named as Markus H, reportedly had the words “Glory and honour” tattooed on his forearm. The tattoo is apparently popular with neo-Nazis as it is one of few slogans with Nazi links that is not illegal in Germany.

HUNGARY | Banned conference not racist, says Jobbik official

Wednesday, 1 October 2014, 13:22 | Source: |

The deputy leader of the radical nationalist Jobbik party has denied he had any information about a racist conference planned in Budapest this week, but said he did not agree with the Hungarian government banning organizations.

“Freedom of speech does exist at the moment, and should allow a lot of things, although I am sure this is not a racist conference,” Tamas Sneider told a Budapest press conference.

Sandor Pinter, Hungary’s interior minister, has banned a conference the US-based “extremist and racist” National Policy Institute planned to hold in Budapest from October 3 to 5, the ministry said on Monday.

Pinter also instructed the national police chief to ban the planned participants’ entry into Hungary, as “the organisation professes an overtly racist ideology and the speakers champion racist ideas” which are incompatible with Hungary’s fundamental law.

FRANCE | Seeking New Heights in France, National Front Party Thinks Locally

Wednesday, 1 October 2014, 13:15 | Souce: NYT |

Elected mayor of one section of Marseille earlier this year as the candidate of the far-right National Front, Stéphane Ravier wasted no time before making headlines, announcing that public employees under his control would no longer speak anything but French, a slap at this sprawling port city’s large Muslim immigrant population.

Ticking off his other accomplishments recently, Mr. Ravier described serving quiche with bacon at an annual city hall function rather than a non-pork version in deference to Muslim dietary practices, and halting a marriage ceremony because a young Muslim bride was wearing a veil covering her face.

“My predecessor would not have been brave enough to do any of these things,” Mr. Ravier said, settled into the sofa in his large office in the seventh sector of Marseille and clearly satisfied with his performance so far. “The husband had a beard to his knees. He accused me of being anti-Islam. I said, ‘No, it’s you who will not make an effort. I am just imposing the law. We are in France.’ ”

Mr. Ravier is just one of a crop of far-right candidates propelled into city halls across France as part of an ambitious plan by the National Front to build support from the ground up, prove that it can govern and set the stage for a presidential run by its leader, Marine Le Pen, in 2017.

Like many of his counterparts in other towns and cities, Mr. Ravier has been quick to impose the National Front’s anti-immigrant, nationalistic, populist ideology, stirring controversy but also putting the party’s reach on display at a time when France remains economically moribund and the mainstream parties of left and right are mired in their own deep troubles.

Ms. Le Pen is hoping the mayors can show that the National Front, or the F.N. as it is known by its French initials, can live up to its promises to lower taxes, balance budgets and provide better services, including lowering crime. At the same time, she hopes that daily contact with them and the 1,500 candidates elected to serve on town councils will help convince voters that the party is less extreme than they think.

It is a strategy that highlights the new tactics brought to the National Front by Ms. Le Pen, the daughter of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who never bothered with this tier of French politics. Some experts say he was never serious about winning the French presidency, and only wanted a platform to speak out.

Ms. Le Pen, by contrast, is methodically building a political machine she hopes will be capable of winning national influence and ultimately propel her to the presidency.

On Sunday, voters elected two National Front candidates to the Senate, the first time the party has been represented in the upper house of the national Parliament, further underscoring the opportunity Ms. Le Pen has to portray her party as part of the mainstream.

“It is a very important part of the National Front strategy that these mayors succeed,” said Sylvain Crépon, the author of “In the Heart of the National Front.”

“They are hoping that these mayors will be a showcase, knocking down the idea that the National Front is incompetent. It’s the total opposite of her father’s thinking.”

But so far it is not clear whether the party is rebranding itself or simply reinforcing its reputation for intolerance and barely veiled racism. In just six months, far-right mayors have gained notoriety for such things as giving themselves raises, cutting day care slots and free school lunches in largely immigrant neighborhoods, and passing a law prohibiting begging.

The strategy has also highlighted the lack of depth in the party’s ranks below Ms. Le Pen. The country’s 14 National Front mayors, most elected in last March’s local elections, took office with almost no governing experience and with the French news media closely tracking their performance.

Little of the coverage has been flattering, noting everything from tax cuts that are throwing budgets out of whack to gestures that are deemed oafish.

Perhaps no mayor has had a harder time than Fabien Engelmann, who is the mayor of Hayange, a factory town in the northeast of the country. He first drew national attention for repainting a fountain in the town square without consulting the artist who created it, evoking headlines suggesting that the National Front lacked culture, a serious demerit in this country.

The hoopla over the statue had barely died down when Mr. Engelmann was accused by a former colleague of having illegally pressed her into paying about 3,000 euros of his campaign debts so that he would not go over his legal spending limit. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Last week, he found himself in the middle of yet another controversy for having ordered a halal butcher to close on Sunday under threat of arrest, though he did not order any other businesses that stay open on Sunday to close.

In the south, another National Front official who has gotten a lot of attention is Joris Hébrard, 32, a physiotherapist who was elected mayor of Le Pontet, a town about an hour’s drive away from Marseille. Several of the new National Front mayors have given themselves raises. But Mr. Hébrard topped the charts by giving himself a raise of 44 percent. After the regional government reviewed his calculations, he had to give most of it back.

One reason the increase caused such a stir is that the town is hugely in debt and even as Mr. Hébrard was raising his own salary and that of his deputies, he was eliminating free lunches for poor families, most of them immigrants. In a recent interview, he said that only five or six families really seemed to need the free lunches and that he would decide later what to do about them.

“Nothing should be free,” he said, noting that he was reviewing all of the town’s fees and services.

But the harshness of budget cuts falling on struggling immigrant families has been a recurring theme. The left-leaning daily newspaper Libération recently ran a piece under the headline “National Front Town Halls: The Poor Are Not Worth The Money,” a story that concluded that the National Front mayors were cutting day care, food banks, free lunches and programs for dropouts and runaways in areas where the cuts would largely affect the poor, often people of immigrant descent.

Sometimes the mayors’ actions have prompted protests. When the mayor of Villers-Cotterêts, Franck Briffaut, refused to hold an annual ceremony commemorating the abolition of slavery, saying the national celebration “only perpetuated guilt,” about 300 demonstrators went ahead without him. In Hénin-Beaumont, when the mayor, Steeve Briois, signed an order banning begging, the League of Human Rights challenged the move in the courts, forcing him to rescind the measure, which was widely seen as targeting the Roma.

It is still early for the mayors and no polls appear to exist on how they are being perceived by the general public. But in one indication of concern within the party, Ms. Le Pen took time out at a gathering of young supporters to criticize journalists for their focus on National Front mayors, coverage she deemed relentlessly negative.

“But the sun still shines above cities won by the National Front, no offense to these birds of ill omen,” she said.

While some experts say that the mayors have surely had a rocky start, some of the overtly nationalistic, anti-European stands the mayors are taking, such as Mr. Ravier’s behavior or one mayor’s refusal to fly the European Union flag outside his town hall, may actually be giving the party’s standing a boost.

“The French have gotten more radical,” said Brice Teinturier, the chief pollster of the polling group Ipsos in France. “The actions against immigrants don’t shock like they did 10 or 15 years ago.”

Mr. Ravier, in Marseille, has voted against just about any kind of spending in the low-income area of his sector, saying that renovating housing in such neighborhoods, for instance, is not going to change the “nature” of those who live there. Mr. Ravier, 45, seems to have little sympathy for those families that say that their streets are dirty and infested with drug dealers.

“I can tell you that my predecessor never said to them, ‘Get your children to school,’ ” Mr. Ravier said. “That is eight hours that they would not be able to fall under the influence of the drug

AUSTRALIA/GREECE | Australian branch of far-right Greek party raises cash

Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 17:58 | Source: Guardian |

The Australian branch of Greece’s ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party is raising funds locally using an unregistered charity. A Melbourne-based charity named Voithame Tin Ellada (VTE) – which translates to “We are helping Greece” – has been raising cash and clothing from Australia’s Greek community since late last year.

The donations are ostensibly sent to Greece to help citizens afflicted by the country’s financial downturn. A shipping container of clothing collected from Australians was sent to Greece in March.

Photographs on the charity’s Facebook page show its members clad in matching T-shirts bearing the far-right party’s name and swastika-like logo. A Christmas fundraising drive – asking donors to deposit their money into a Greek bank account – was announced on the page last week by Golden Dawn’s Australian representative, Ignatius Gavrilidis.

Gavrilidis confirmed to Guardian Australia that VTE was affiliated with the controversial Greek political party, whose leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is in detention awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal organisation. But Gavrilidis said the money raised by VTE’s fundraising efforts only went towards buying food for the needy. “We buy the food direct from the producers and Golden Dawn takes delivery of the goods … We use their labour, they hand out the food where it’s appropriate,” he said. “They [the recipients] need to hold citizenship. As long as they hold citizenship, it gets distributed to them.” The organisation is not registered with either federal or state charity regulators.

Golden Dawn’s anti-immigrant, antisemitic and homophobic rhetoric has found favour with some in a Greek population reeling from the country’s financial crisis, and the party has become the third-largest political force in Athens. Its members have been accused by human rights groups of leading street attacks on dark-skinned immigrants, gays and Muslims.

All 18 Golden Dawn members of the Greek parliament were arrested in police raids last year after an anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, was murdered, allegedly by thugs affiliated with the party. Since the crackdown, the party has increasingly turned to its overseas branches to help deliver aid and build support among the Greek population, Gavrilidis said. “The [Greek] government has virtually financially dried the party; they’ve stopped any funding, any entitlements they get as a party,” he said. “So to continue to help those in need they are reaching out to those beyond their borders.”

Gavrilidis said VTE was set up in November 2013 by members of the Greek community not associated with Golden Dawn. “But these individuals failed to attract support, and I offered my assistance, and they were more than happy to get it off the ground,” he said. Within two months the organisation had been absorbed into Golden Dawn’s Australian branch, he said. “We decided to aid VTE and back them up, and we became VTE ourselves.”

Sotiris Hatzimanolis, the editor of the Greek community newspaper Neos Kosmos, said it was “not really common knowledge” within Australia’s Greek diaspora that VTE was a front for Golden Dawn. Victorian Liberal MP Nicholas Kotsiras, who is of Greek heritage, said he was “disappointed” that Golden Dawn was fundraising in Australia. “Our aim should be to take away the oxygen of the group so they disappear as quickly as they appeared,” he said.

Kotsiras said he would raise VTE with the Consumer Affairs Department: “I’d like the authorities to take a good look at it.” Golden Dawn announced last month that two of its European MPs, the former army generals Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios, would visit Australia later this year to raise funds and awareness of the group. The proposed visit, scheduled for November, has been condemned by ethnic community leaders, trade unions and senior members of the Greek community.

GERMANY | Police suspect neo-Nazis of Reichstag attack

Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 10:26 | Source: |

Police suspect neo-Nazis of Reichstag attack

An investigator gives a sniffer dog the scent of an object found at the scene. Photo: DPA

Investigators believe a Molotov cocktail thrown at the Reichstag building in Berlin early on Monday morning was the work of a far-right group, a police spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

A flyer from a neo-Nazi group was found at the Paul-Löbe-Allee entrance to the parliament building where a Molotov cocktail was thrown at around 2am.

Investigators are examining similarities with an attack on the Christian Democratic Union headquarters near Berlin's Tiergarten on August 25th, the Berliner Morgenpost reported .

As in the Reichstag attack, a bottle filled with flammable liquid was thrown at the entrance but burned itself out without the fire spreading or injuring anyone.

HUNGARY | Jobbik mayoral candidate suggests creating Budapest Guard to combat "beggars' mafia"

Monday, 29 September 2014, 22:22 | Source: |

Radical nationalist Jobbik wants Budapest to be a strong and livable city providing a broad range of services for its residents, the opposition party’s mayoral candidate said on Friday.

Gabor Staudt presented the party’s programme for Budapest for the local elections to be held on October 12.

Public safety and transport services are the main focus areas in Jobbik’s programme, he said.

Jobbik wants to promote public transportation by reducing the VAT of tickets and passes to 5 percent, introducing student fares and establishing more P+R lots. It would also introduce a uniform parking system with parking passes.

Jobbik would introduce a classification system to indicate safe bars and provide a call service for the elderly.

Jobbik wants to assign more tasks to the police, Staudt said.

The party would establish a Budapest Guard tasked with combatting trade at illegal markets, metal theft crimes and the beggars’ mafia to protect citizens and assets more efficiently, he said.

The unit would also perform green area and animal protection duties.

Jobbik’s programme contains a separate “Budapest law” designed to regulate the distribution of powers between the city, its districts and the central government, he said.

Staudt said the party plans to use state and EU funds to cover the costs of development projects.

GERMANY | German minister compares far-right party to neo-Nazis

Monday, 29 September 2014, 22:14 | Source: |

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has called the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party demagogical and populist, and compared it to German neo-Nazis.
His attack on the AfD is the first time a senior member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has engaged with the party, little more than a year after it was founded.

Until now the CDU largely ignored the AfD, hoping it would vanish as quickly as it appeared. However, a run of AfD electoral success appears to have prompted a rethink inside Dr Merkel’s inner circle.

“We have to deal with these populists with all decisiveness,” said Dr Schäuble to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, accusing the AfD of employing “no-holds-barred demaogoguery” to win support.

The rapid rise of the party reminded him of the Republikaner, he said, a neo-Nazi party that won seats in the 1990s in the state parliament of his native Baden-Württemberg.

Germany without euro

Dr Schäuble said AfD party leader Bernd Lucke, an economics professor in Hamburg, wanted voters to believe everything would be better in Germany without the euro.

“That an economics professor claims such nonsense is an impertinence,” he said, adding that every serious economist knew that European integration would mean less prosperity in Germany.

Dr Lucke said the finance minister’s “below the belt” attack revealed “his helplessness in dealing with a party that’s opening people’s eyes . . . and finding growing support”. He added that Dr Schäuble was a “pied piper” for “not informing adequately what risks hide behind German liability for European debts”, a nod to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund his party opposes.

Social spending

Anti-euro, bailout-critical policies were the core of the AfD programme when it was established last year. After narrowly missing the 5 per cent hurdle to enter the Bundestag last September, it polled 7 per cent in May’s European elections. In recent weeks it won double-digit support in three regional polls in eastern Germany after broadening its anti-euro platform to demand greater social spending and tough law-and-order policies.

However, the party faces growing criticism that its rapid rise is thanks to extremist positions to attract support from Germany’s political fringes. In recent regional elections the AfD demanded referendums on mosque minarets and praised East Germany as a safer place than Brandenburg’s border region with Poland today. A candidate in the central state of Thuringia, with a non- German quota of 1.8 per cent, warned that excessive immigration endangered “German identity”.

Voter concern

The AfD denies it is chasing extremist votes, insisting its critical stance on immigration addresses a voter concern that mainstream parties ignore.

But far-right rows forced the AfD in Brandenburg to fire two new parliamentarians before they even took their seats. The first was ousted for spreading far-right rumours about colleagues to the media. Days later his replacement, Jan- Ulrich Weiss, was kicked out for posting a picture of banker Jacob Rothschild on Facebook with the commentary: “We own pretty much every bank worldwide. We steer news, media, oil and your government . . . you have probably never heard of me.”

Brandenburg AfD leader Alexander Gauland said the remarks from Mr Weiss were more suitable for the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer than his party.

FRANCE | Front National wins seats in French senate for first time

Sunday, 28 September 2014, 21:57 | Source: Guardian |

The far-right Front National (FN) scored a historic victory in elections to the French senate on Sunday, winning its first ever seats in the upper chamber as the ruling Socialists and their leftwing allies lost their majority to rightwing parties.

The shock victory of Stéphane Ravier from Marseilles and David Rachline from Fréjus confirmed the party’s political breakthrough under Marine Le Pen, who has brushed the poisonous legacy of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen under the carpet in an attempt to “de-demonise” the FN.

The two seats are both in the FN’s stronghold in southern France, and at 26 Rachline, the mayor of Fréjus, is the youngest French senator ever elected.

The result marks a third humiliating electoral defeat for the Socialist party, which has been punished by disillusioned voters while support for the FN has surged. Le Pen’s party won control of a dozen municipalities in elections last March, including the 7th district in Marseilles where Ravier was elected mayor.

It also came top in the European elections two months later, when it knocked the centre-right UMP into second place. One poll earlier this month said that Le Pen could theoretically beat the country’s president, François Hollande, in the second round of the next presidential election, scheduled for 2017.

Referring to the presidency after his election to the senate, Ravier said: “There’s just one more door to open, the Elysée. In 2017 we’ll have Marine Le Pen to do it.”

Sunday’s complex vote was for half of the 348 seats in the senate by an electoral college of 87,000 voters made up of city councillors and local officials. A first round of voting which concluded around midday provided a foretaste of the final shock result, with the Socialists losing seven seats, including in Hollande’s own constituency of La Correze. “It’s Berezina,” one leading Socialist said, referring to Napoleon’s defeat while retreating from Russia.

With Hollande’s popularity at an unprecedented low of 13% and the government hit by budget woes, record joblessness and zero growth, his party had expected to lose the senate majority it has held with the Communists and Greens since 2011.

Le Pen hailed her party’s success as a “great victory, an absolutely historic victory” which she said would represent a “breath of fresh air in a rather sleepy chamber”.

“With every day that passes, our ideas are making progress,” she told BFMTV, predicting further gains for the FN in the forthcoming territorial and regional elections.

The result is also a much-needed shot in the arm for the UMP of the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is bidding to return to head the party. Sarkozy returned to the political arena last week, and is clearly positioning himself for another run at the presidency after Hollande defeated him in 2012.

With the final senate results still awaited, the Socialist leader, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, played down the scale of his party’s defeat, saying it had feared greater gains by the opposition right-wing parties.

The Socialist leader of the senate, Didier Guillaume, predicted that the right would not have a stable majority, saying that the UMP would need to rely on centrist allies. The government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll stressed that whatever the outcome, the prime minister, Manuel Valls, would not be deflected from his reform plans.

HUNGARY | Racist gathering banned

Sunday, 28 September 2014, 18:01 | Source: Hnh/Budapest |

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has ordered the Minister of the Interior to prevent a racist conference to be held in Budapest.

Viktor Orban told Sandor Pinter, Minister of the Interior to prevent the Budapest conference of the US-based extremist, racist National Policy Institute to be held between 3rd and 5th October 2014 with all legal means at his disposal - said Bertalan Havasi, the Head of Prime Minister's Press Office to the Hungarian News Agency (MTI) on Sunday .

Last Monday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade told MTI that the government found it unacceptable that an American extremist racist organization together with Russian radicals were to hold a conference in Budapest, Hungary.

The proposed meeting was previously opposed by opposition parties
Egyutt-PM and the Democratic Coalition. Last Wednesday the Socialist party MSZP and the Left Bloc's platform demanded a ban on the event .

The Larus Events-Organising Center in Budapest- which was originally planned to host the event next Saturday - said that "the contract has been cancelled with the conference organizers”.

The event to be organized for October 4 does not conform to the spirit of democratic and civil principles - Larus explained.