Anti-Islam group vows it won't be silenced

2015-01-19 16:41
Lutz Bachmann. (Jens Meyer, AP)

Lutz Bachmann. (Jens Meyer, AP)

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Dresden - A German group protesting what it calls "the Islamisation of the West" vowed on Monday that it won't be silenced after its weekly rally was cancelled following an alleged terrorist threat against one of its organisers.

The planned demonstration in Dresden by PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, was scrapped and local police banned all rallies on Monday after being informed of a call for attackers to kill Lutz Bachmann, PEGIDA's best-known figure.

Monday's cancellation "doesn't mean that we'll let ourselves be gagged... [or] deprived of the right to freedom of assembly and opinion", co-organiser Kathrin Oertel said at a news conference. Bachmann said a demonstration is planned for next week.

The group has drawn widespread criticism from German politicians, but its organisers insist PEGIDA and its supporters aren't racist.

About 25 000 people attended last week's PEGIDA demonstration in Dresden, police estimated. Similar groups in other German cities haven't drawn anywhere near as much support, and there have been much larger demonstrations against them.

In neighbouring Denmark, a group using the PEGIDA name planned to go ahead with its first march in Copenhagen on Monday. Organisers say they expect up to 500 people, and police say they will closely monitor the demonstrations but decline to give any details.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a sharp critic of the Dresden rallies, said terror threats must never lead to opinions being suppressed, "regardless of whether or not we like these opinions".

"The great majority in Germany rejects PEGIDA and has taken to the streets against PEGIDA in recent weeks," he said. "That must continue to be possible, even if there were certainly good reasons for the individual decision by security authorities in Dresden."

In Spain, a group using the PEGIDA name and a small far-right group called Alianza Nacional have been trying to organise a protest march in front of Madrid's largest mosque. But the regional office of the Spanish Interior Ministry banned the latest request, saying such a march "could pose a serious risk to public security".

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