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Berlin – Rally held by neo-Nazis

Hundreds of police took up positions in a Berlin suburb Saturday as neo-Nazis gathered for a rally to demand the release of a jailed right-wing musician.

Up to 1,200 neo-Nazis were expected to take part in the protest outside Tegel prison where Michael Regener, former singer of the banned rock group Landser, is serving a three-year sentence.

Regener, also known as Lunikoff, lost an appeal in 2005 against his conviction for spreading racial hatred and membership of a criminal organization.

The rock group Landser, German for ‘foot soldiers,’ was declared a criminal organization for propagating racial hatred in its music.

The rally is being organized by the extremist German National Party (NPD), of which Regener is a member.

The NPD last month won enough seats in elections to gain admission to parliament in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, after Saxony the second eastern German state where it is represented.

Three-left wing organizations have said they will stage rallies Saturday to protest against the neo-Nazi gathering.

Police said the neo-Nazis would not be allowed to march, wear uniforms, or display Nazi insignia banned in Germany.

Earlier this week, officials confirmed there had been a sharp increase in neo-Nazi crime in Germany.

Almost 8,000 crimes by the far-right were reported during the first eight months of this year, compared with 6,605 for the same period in 2005, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel paper said Tuesday, quoting German Interior Ministry figures provided to a member of parliament.

Between January and August this year, a total of 452 violent neo- Nazi attacks were reported in Germany, with 325 people injured. During the same period in 2005 there were 363 attacks and 302 injuries, the newspaper said.

A statement by the interior ministry confirmed the figures for rightist crime issued in August but cautioned the data was still ‘preliminary’ and might later be adjusted.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the Verfassungsschutz, says about 40,000 people belong to far-right groups in the country, of whom over 10,000 are deemed to be violent skinheads.

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