Germany to crack down on far right following Yom Kippur attack

German government approves draft law to crack down on the far right.

Ben Ariel,

Police officers at site of shooting in Halle, Germany
Police officers at site of shooting in Halle, Germany
Reuters

The German government on Wednesday approved a draft law to crack down on the far right, following the deadly attack by an alleged neo-Nazi targeting a synagogue, AFP reports.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet signed off on a raft of measures that in particular target weapons sales and hate speech online.

The bill must still be approved by parliament.

"The threat from far-right extremism and far-right terrorism, and with them anti-Semitism, is high in Germany and we can't stress it often enough," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told a news conference, according to AFP.

Germany had already in 2017 passed one of the most restrictive laws in the world to combat racist and incendiary speech online, requiring social media giants to remove illegal content or risk fines of up to €50 million.

The new legislation goes further, noted AFP, compelling internet companies to flag problematic content including death threats and incitement of racial hatred to police.

Law enforcement authorities will have the power to order online platforms to provide them with user data in these cases for possible criminal prosecution.

The measures come three weeks after a right-wing extremist who had posted a racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic manifesto online tried and failed to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle during Yom Kippur prayers.

When he was unable to blast open the locked door, he shot and killed two non-Jewish Germans -- one on the street outside and another at a Turkish snack shop.

Police eventually captured the 27-year-old shooter, Stephan Balliet, after a gun battle that left him wounded.

Balliet admitted to the shooting rampage and confessed that it was motivated by anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

Seehofer noted on Wednesday the fact that his weapons -- reportedly built using a 3D printer -- repeatedly failed to fire had prevented a potential "massacre".

"I don't even want to imagine what might have happened in Halle if we had American-style gun laws" Seehofer said, referring to the far less restrictive weapons legislation in the United States.

Seehofer warned in the days following the attack that there is an "elevated" risk of more far-right attacks in Germany.

Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 20 percent in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data which blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.

A report released last summer found that Germany had seen an increased number of attacks on Jews during the first half of 2018.




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