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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 3:35 pm on March 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Extreme right and the Spanish police and armed forces 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    This is a new article of the Pro Igual series of blogs investigating the connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

    As discussed throughout the series, Spain became home to considerable numbers of high-ranking Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution in Europe after the WWII. In addition, Spain at that time itself was a fascist dictatorship. Hence it is logical that there were rather cozy relations established between the fugitive Nazis and members of the Spanish armed forces and the police. However, even after Franco´s death, following the transition and the establishment of democracy in Spain, there has never been any critical review of this historic legacy. The result is that not only does Spain lack a sufficient legal framework to address racially-motivated violence and hate crimes, but the very institutions charged with protecting society from such crimes – the police and Civil Guard – may be not entirely immune from the presence of, or infiltration by neo-Nazi/pro-fascist elements.

    In 1995 none other than the then President Adolfo Suarez admitted in an interview on the Spanish television noted that there had been no purges in the Spanish power structures from the pro-fascist elements and the very idea of such purges seemed ludicrous. And so, old and neo-Nazis, former fascists and their sympathizers were allowed to remain or to join the Spanish police, Civil guard and the army, as well as serving in various private security firms with close links to the government structures.

    It is remarkable that one of the very first cases classified as hate crime against immigrants in Spain was committed by a member of the Civil Guard, in 1992. The victim was a harmless Dominican woman, Lucrecia Perez. Among the group of other immigrant women, utterly defenseless, she was attacked under the cover of the night and shot at by four masked men, whose leader was later identified as a member of the Civil Guard with close links to the local neo-Nazi gangs and a prior record of violent racism.

    In one of the Pro Igual´s earlier blog articles we briefly highlighted the role of the Spanish police in the international hunt for Dr. Death (Aribert Heim). Because of the tip-off from someone inside the Spanish police, Heim escaped and was never captured or found again, along with some other Nazi criminals who were able to change their location and avoid imminent arrests.

    More recently, in the course of the “Operation Armor” against a major neo-Nazi structure engaged in organized crime in Valencia – including trafficking of arms from the Spanish soldiers to neo-Nazis – criminal investigators complained about constant info leaks that impeded or sabotaged the operation, so that planned searches of the suspects´ premises had to be moved forward. One of the intercepted and recorded telephone conversations presented as evidence to the court sounded like this: “Listen, so-an-so from the Government delegation called me, they´re gonna search the headquarters in two days.” Members of the Civil Guard conducting investigation also reportedly stated that some of their own colleagues turned out to be neo-Nazi moles. See, http://borreruak.blogspot.com/2010/07/entrevista-con-joan-cantarero-autor-de.html. Despite this clear evidence of insider informants, there has been no separate investigation into infiltration by the neo-Nazis of the police, Civil Guard or even in this case of the Valencian regional government.

    Extreme right/neo-Nazi elements are reported to be a regular occurrence also in the Spanish armed forces. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq where soldiers from other NATO countries also participated, some Spanish soldiers were spotted wearing “mata moros” (“kill the moors”) pins which are traditionally associated with extreme right nationalistic organizations. Most recently, in Malaga, during the religious celebrations around Easter 2011, a swastika tattoo on the arm of an active-duty Spanish soldier caught attention of the media and caused considerable public resonance.

    Media on a regular basis report sightings of the members of the police, Civil Guard and the army – in their capacity as participants – at the pro-Nazi social events, such RAC music concerts, specific football fan gatherings, and the like.

    In recent years, a number of high-profile racially- or ideologically-motivated murders had been committed by extreme right-leaning members of the Spanish Civil Guard, the police, and the army:

    • In 2007, a Spanish soldier with links to neo-Nazis killed anti-fascist activist Carlos Palomino; the family of the victim reported sneers and mockery from the police throughout the investigation and court process.
    • In 2008, in the military quarters El Bruc, Barcelona, 10 masked Spanish soldiers beat up 3 soldiers of the immigrant background.
    • Meanwhile, the same year in Madrid, the police protected neo-Nazis holding a demonstration in a working district with large immigrant population, while battering anti-Nazi protesters; the police used batons and fire arms, at least three persons (anti-fascists) were wounded, one lost an eye, one woman was brutally stomped over by the police. Civil society activists claim it is typical that the police beat up anti-fascists but turn a blind eye to neo-Nazis, even if the latter are heavily armed, see: http://www.publico.es/espana/221064/la-policia-no-cachea-a-los-nazis-armados-en-las-manifestaciones.
    • In 2009, guards accused of particular brutality towards inmates in the infamous CIEs (Centros de Internamiento para Estranjeros) coincidentally also sported shaven heads and neo-Nazi tattoos or symbols, besides allegedly using ethnic and racial slurs characteristic of the extreme right´s jargon. (Pro Igual covered the situation in the Spanish CIEs in its past articles, see here and here.)
    • In the early 2012, the Valencian police brutally suppressed the demonstration of underage students, who were “armed” with books and protested budget cuts for education. What is interesting, in addition to Valencia being the preferred location for ex-Nazi fugitives, is that the chief of the police there does not even try to hide his sympathy towards the extreme right. See: chief of the police there does not even try to hide his sympathy towards the extreme right.

    These cases, especially taken in the context of Spanish history, are more than unrelated incidents. They suggest systematic infiltration of the power structures of the Spanish state by neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and other extreme right elements. If not for tireless efforts of the Spanish civil society, even a greater number of racially-motivated attacks and hate crimes committed by right-wing sympathizers serving in those organs would have remained covered up and forgotten.

    The next article of the series will address specifically Spanish civil society movement and initiatives developed to address and counter hate crimes and propaganda by the Spanish extreme right.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:36 pm on March 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Not a very good day for equality in Germany 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Last week the highest appellate court in Germany ruled that hotels could turn away right-wing extremists on grounds of the latter´ political views.

    The case that received considerable domestic attention concerned a hotel in the state of Brandenburg which, in 2009, refused to provide a room to the former head of the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD), Udo Voigt. Voigt sued the hotel for discrimination, for banning him on the grounds of his political opinions. The hotel argued that the right-wing extremist´s presence was detrimental to the hotel´s image and reputation. The lower instance courts found in favor of the hotel.

    The Federal Court of Justice ruled that while the hotel could not retroactively cancel the booking, because it failed to demonstrate how Vogt had previously upset other guests with his presence, the hotel was fundamentally “free to decide whom it accepts and whom it does not.” The highest Court admitted that the case raised extremely difficult legal issues, including whether hotels (and by extension restaurants, discos, shops, etc.) are public spaces open to everyone. The case also pitted personal freedom/autonomy against equality. Article 3 of the German Basic Law bans discrimination, inter alia, on the basis of religious or political views. However, the Court stated this principle may not apply between private people and companies.

    This is where the Court, in my opinion, was monumentally wrong. First of all, the principle of discrimination does apply in both public and private sphere. Although the concept may be still new and even somewhat alien in Germany, the EU Race Directive, which Germany had to transpose, extends prohibition of discrimination to both public and private sector. Article 3.1(h) of the Race Directive specifically stipulates non-discriminatory “access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public, including housing.” Second, the German Basic Law (Article 18) contains a clause whereby persons abusing their constitutional rights could forfeit those rights. The German Court chose instead to conclude that private establishments are free to choose whether and to whom render their services.

    So, before we yield to the temptation to celebrate that neo-Nazi thugs would from now on sleep in the streets instead of hotels, let´s consider implications of the ruling. In reality, what is more likely to happen and in fact happens practically on a daily basis: that private service establishments would turn away white right-wing extremists, or unpopular immigrants/minorities? This was a rather unique case involving the known neo-Nazi, that is, someone a priori rejecting the very principle he tried to invoke. But with this ruling, the Court has handed German private establishments a legal license to discriminate.

    All in all, not a very good day for equal treatment in Germany.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:37 pm on March 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    The extreme right scene in Spain. Part I: Neo-Nazis in Valencia 

    By Demetrio Gomez, CIDH Pro Igual

    This article is part of the series of blogs investigating the connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

    As discussed in some of the previous articles, see here, many former Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution after the WWII had settled in Spain. Their principal destination was the Mediterranean Coast. In particular, Valencia has come to be one of the most prominent safe havens for the Nazi fugitives where they could not only continue living undisturbed, but also established strong connections and exerted an enormous influence on the extreme right ideology and organizations in Spain.

    The Nazi footprint

    Following a trial and conviction in absentia of Dr. Death (Aribert Heim) by the court of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Stuttgart police unit travelled to Spain where Heim was reportedly sighted. The investigators visited a small town of Denia, in Valencia. It is there that the whole German enclave was discovered, effectively sheltering dozens of former SS officials. (A detailed account of the Nazis settled in Spain is provided in Joan Cantarero´s book “La Huella de la Bota,” “The Bootprint.”)

    Picture a sunny Valencian town along the coast, a habitual vacation spot during the summer months. A scenic house surrounded by gardens and known, for as long as the residents could remember it, as “the German House.” In the garden, there was a stone barbecue grill ending in a vault and adorned with a swastika in a circle, poking macabre fun at the victims of the crematorium ovens. Presently, the house has been converted into a hotel; the barbecue is still there, although the swastika was removed.

    That house, also nicknamed “Fine House,” to honor its owner´s spouse Josefa Gallego, belonged to a former Nazi official Josef Janitscha. Along with the “Bremer’s Bungalows” and Gestapo quarters situated in the upper part of the town and overlooking the sea (often serving as a lighthouse to guide the boats and an interrogation and torture place for dissenting Nazis), the “Fine House” was part of the protection network for fugitive Nazi officials. Upon arrival, the Nazis usually spent some time at the Bungalows before relocating somewhere else.

    The Bremer´s apartments made up the most modern, the best illuminated and the best maintained area of the town, with stunning views of the sea. Its naturally sheltered location permitted the owners to carry out Nazi smuggling in total privacy. Bremer in turn had fully integrated himself into the life of the community, providing jobs for the local residents and even financing the municipal orchestra, so that every July 25 – on Bremer´s birthday – they played in his honor. According to one of the musicians invited to play at a private party held at the “Fine House” in 1979, all guests were dressed in the Nazi uniforms and the whole place was decorated with the same paraphernalia (as documented in the Cantarero´s book).

    And this all was taking place in the late 1970s, that is, already after the end of the Franco´s dictatorship and the adoption of the Spanish Constitution. Not only was there never any retribution for the Nazi criminals, but the Spanish authorities consistently rejected extradition requests by other countries governments. Moreover, owing to rather close connections between the former Nazis and the Spanish police forces at that time, the search for Nazi criminals had to be conducted with the uttermost discretion due to risk that someone at the police could tip off the Nazis about the direction of the search. Probably, this is what had happened during the international hunt for Heim, and despite the “imminent arrest” of “Dr. Gaussmann,” a Heim´s alias at that time, he managed to escape and never to be found again.

    The current landscape

    Judging by a cozy life of the ex-Nazis on the Levantine coast, it is hardly surprising that precisely there, in Valencia of all places, the extreme right organizations have proliferated the most, and the largest number of neo-Nazi attacks and aggressions have been reported. For the neo-Nazi brutes, these old criminals are epic heroes inspiring fanatical admiration and blind following.

    Thanks to important work of Spanish civil society organizations, some of the neo-Nazi extremists´ activities in had been documented and exposed. Thus, the Anti-Fascist Intelligence Group (Grupo de Inteligencia Antifascista or “GIA”) regularly published in the Valencia Weekly reports about right-wing attacks and helped obtain evidence and identify the perpetrators. These materials provide an important insight into quotidian workings of neo-Nazi leaders.

    For example, the GIA exposed the leader of the extreme right wing España 2000 party as a person planting a bomb at the Levante UD Stadium in 1976 on the eve of one of the first mass gatherings of the left. Jose Luis Roberto chaired the party at the same time as he served as the secretary General of the National Association of Local Entrepreneurs of Alterne (in Spanish “ANELA”). He is also the owner of a security firm Levantina de Seguridad notorious for its violent character and previously sued for forcing its workers to join the pro-fascist Falange Española party.

    During the term of Eduardo Zaplana as the President of the Autonomous Community of Valencia and subsequently as the Labor Minister, the firm reached its highest point. It was contracted to oversee security of public buildings and got cash injection of at least 3mln euro. The firm, that by the way sells Nazi souvenirs on its website, was highly praised by the Valencian police chief, Antonio Moreno Piquer, who does not make a secret of his sympathy for España 2000 and who also was behind the latest acts of police brutality against minors during the 2012 student demonstrations in Valencia.

    In addition to these legal and visible organizations, there are also numerous “dark horses” camouflaging under other political orientations and imparting their ideology of hatred in a less conspicuous manner. Environmentalism is one of the most common covers. For example, the Environmental Thought and Action (in Spanish “Pensamiento y Acción Ecologista” or “PAE”) was formed by militants of the ultra-right organization National Alliance. Meetings and conferences of the infamous Library Europa, banished from convening at any of the nearby hotels and conference centers, regularly take place at the PAE headquarters.

    The extreme right elements have managed to infiltrate even some of the workers´ organizations and labor unions, attempting to inculcate the rejection of foreigners and immigration because allegedly “migrants steal jobs from the Spanish.” In 2010, there was a major conflict in the General Labor Confederation (Confederación General del Trabajo or CGT) leading to the expulsion of the right-wing elements and a statement from the organization that the CGT rejects xenophobic ideology.

    There are also ongoing attempts from the pro-fascist/neo-Nazi forces to take political office and have a greater influence on the political life in Spain. For example, Pedro José Cuevas Silvestre, aka “El Ventosa,” was convicted of the brutal murder of anti-fascist activist Guillem Agulló. Cuevas merely served 4 out of 14 years of his prison term. Leaving jail without a trace of remorse, this convicted criminal had no difficulties whatsoever in pursuing a career in politics. His name appeared on the list of the Chiva municipal elections in 2007 (in Segovia) as a candidate of the ultra-right National Alliance.

    Last but not least major neo-Nazi organization in Valencia, uncovered as a result of the Operation Panzer in 2005, is the Front Against the System (Frente Antisistema or FAS). It is a for-profit organization implicated in numerous cases of robbery, violent assaults on immigrants, arms trafficking (in conspiracy with the members of the Spanish military), and other illicit activities. The organization is headed by a known Valencian businessman, Juan Manuel Soria, who by the way also is the head of the aforementioned PAE and a member of the National Alliance.

    In conclusion, the large influx of the fugitive Nazi criminals after the WWII has certainly helped turn Valencia into one of the major bastions of the extreme right movement in Spain. If not for civil society initiatives, such as the Platform Against Impunity (Plataforma Contra la Impunidad) among others, the extreme right/neo-Nazi activism most likely would have been left without repercussions in Valencia, as happened in so many other Spanish localities. The more detailed account of the civil society initiatives to counter the neo-Nazi threat will be offered in the subsequent articles.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:29 pm on March 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    The extreme right scene in Spain. Part I: Neo-Nazis in Malaga 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual 

    This article is part of the series of blogs investigating connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

    As discussed in the earlier articles of this series (see here and here), many high-ranking Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution after the WWII found a safe refuge and a new home on the Spanish shores. Malaga was one of the most important destinations for Nazi fugitives.

    In Marbella (the province of Malaga), Nazis enjoyed personal support and protection of Honorary Consul Hans Hoffmann, a former Gestapo official and a suspected Nazi spy. “Juanito Hoffmann,” the nickname under which he was known around, owned vast amounts of land which he used during one of the past Spanish property booms to amass a great fortune. Remarkably, decades later, the Hoffmann´s son – a lawyer and legal administrator of various companies – would be one of the major figures implicated in the Marbella corruption case.

    The Hoffmann´s empire provided a safety net to hundreds of fugitive Nazis, including notorious Leon Degrelle and Otto Ernst Remmer who lived undisturbed in Spain until their natural deaths. Another high-profile Nazi and Holocaust denier finding a safe haven in Malaga was Gerd Honsik. He was arrested only in 2007 after the previous request for his extradition to Austria, in 1995, was rejected on grounds of possible “double jeopardy” (sic).

    That cozy existence under the Spanish sun was interrupted by the international hunt for Dr. Death (Aribert Heim), which uncovered scores of the former Nazis hiding in Spain. By then the damage had been done: the decades of unfettered influence from the “old guard” turned Malaga, along with select other areas, into a fertile breeding ground for neo-Nazis and extreme right groups of all sorts.

    According to a Spanish Daily Malaga Today (Malagahoy.es), citing the police officials, growing numbers of young people have been joining neo-Nazi ranks in that Andalusian province in recent years. The largest concentrations are estimated in the poorer working class neighborhoods of Carretera de Cadiz and Nueva Malaga. In addition, Fuengirola in the province of Malaga is considered the skinhead “hard nucleus” and one of the preferred hangouts for neo-Nazi leaders from all over the country.

    They (the youth – Pro Igual) are genuinely brainwashed; it starts with the adoption of philosophy of total nullity of one´s own personality … and continues with the distribution of pamphlets and literature about past Nazi leaders, and even conferences with the former officials of the Third Reich who had settled in the Costa del Sol (Malaga).

    However, according to the UJCE:

    the presence of the extreme right is not limited to organized groups demonstrating around the city, but even at the University there is a notable increase of proponents of (the Nazi) ideology who insult and bully students belonging to the left-leaning associations.

    In 2011, the Malaga section of the Communist Party (PCA) complained of the ongoing harassment and even physical attacks on its members by neo-Nazi groups. The PCA in addition claimed that the police did not always adequately respond to the neo-Nazi demonstrations and assaults on opponents. Here is a video, courtesy of Alerta 112, which shows a striking contrast between a timid and pacifist attitude of the police vis-a-vis an aggressive and unapologetic behavior of the skinheads.

    Particular notoriety was gained by a row between the neo-Nazis and leftist youths that took place during the Feria de Malaga (an annual Spring festival) in 2011. Following the demonstration of the National Alliance (an extreme right organization), about 40 skinheads carrying neo-Nazi attributes surrounded the PCA office in an attempt to provoke a fight. Fortunately, violence was averted by the prompt arrival of the police. However, captured on video, the row shows how easily combustible the situation is, with tensions running high among the extremist youths. Against the background of an ongoing economic crisis gripping Spain and leaving nearly half of the young people aged 18-25 jobless and hopeless, such incidents are disturbingly reminiscent of the Germany of the late 1920s.

    Continuing with the series, in the following weeks we will publish articles probing the neo-Nazi scene in other Spanish regions: Valencia and Madrid. 

     

     
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