German state investigates police over neo-Nazis

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BERLIN, Sep 14 (Reuters) The eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt has launched a parliamentary inquiry into the police for failing to effectively deal with neo-Nazi attacks.

A spate of high-profile crimes, including racially motivated assaults, has alarmed some local politicians who are worried about the reputation of their region.

Last month, a group of Indians were chased and attacked in the small town of Muegeln in the neighbouring state of Saxony and in June police in Saxony-Anhalt came under fire for bungling their response to an attack on a troupe of actors.

''We must follow up every suspicion that civil servants, or police officers are not fighting right-wing extremism and crimes properly,'' Gudrun Tiedge, a Left Party representative in the Saxony-Anhalt parliament told Reuters today.

''We don't want to condemn everyone, but we need a thorough investigation to get to the facts.'' The probe will focus on the police leadership in the city of Dessau-Rosslau, according to the parliamentary motion launching the inquiry.

Several newspapers, including today's edition of the Tageszeitung, have quoted one officer there as advocating ''turning a blind eye'' to investigation into right-wing crimes.

More than 60 years after the end of Hitler's Nazi regime, far-right violence is on the rise in Germany. Last year, it reached its highest level since reunification in 1990.

Groups who work with crime victims have long said the country's right-wing culture is institutionalised and criticise police and prosecutors for being slow to bring cases to court.

States in eastern Germany, many of which have above-average unemployment levels and where many people -- especially women -- are moving out to seek opportunities elsewhere, have the some of the biggest problems.

Tiedge, however, stressed that Saxony-Anhalt was not the only state with neo-Nazis.

She thinks the federal government should do more to combat far-right crime, by granting more money for education schemes and helping to nurture a climate which rejects racist attitudes.

Victim support groups welcomed the probe.

''The investigation is a sign that politicians are taking the problem of right-wing extremism seriously,'' Steffen Andersch, head of the Gegenpart network against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism in Dessau-Rosslau, told Reuters.

The investigation, which a parliament spokeswoman said would take about 18 months, is looking into six cases, including reports of police in one town refusing to record race crimes committed on asylum seekers from Burkina Faso.

It will also examine the highly publicised case in June in Halberstadt. Officers there admitted mistakes after the attack on 14 actors left victims with broken bones and damaged ribs.

Police failed to arrest one of the assailants even though he returned to the scene while the victims were being questioned.

REUTERS SBC AS2015

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