They appear out of the darkness, men and women moving across a field carrying flaming torches, white hoods covering their heads. After forming a circle, in broken English they swear allegiance to "white power" – to the white race and the nation. Then they light a cross as high as a man. This is a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the secret racist American organization known for lynching blacks.
But this gathering didn’t take place somewhere in the American South. It took place in Germany, probably some time around February 2011, and the German branch of the KKK posted a video of it on the Internet.
The club of hooded racists was founded some 150 years ago, after the American Civil War ended, by officers of the defeated Confederate army. They refused to accept the North’s victory, and even less the abolition of slavery and newfound rights for black.
Led by their Grand Wizard, clansmen wearing long white robes and hoods chased down blacks and either tarred and feathered them or hung them from the nearest tree. The Klan's trademark is a burning cross. Its message is racial hatred. The cross stands for the light of Jesus: the secret organization sees itself as Christian.
Its racist missionaries have been successful in Germany where there are reports of several KKK branches or "realms" as they’re known in Klan jargon. And one of those branches caught the attention of investigators on the recent right-wing terror case of the Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU) because two members of the police – colleagues of Michèle Kiesewetter, the policewoman shot in 2007 in Heilbronn allegedly by NSU killers – belonged to it.
The Ku Klux Klan had been trying to get solid foothold in Germany for years. The first meeting of masked men is said to have taken place in the early 20th century in Berlin. After World War II ended, crosses were found burning in some locations where the American army had bases – certain American GIs brought their southern racial hatred with them to Germany.
In the 1960s, there was press speculation putting the number of active KKK members in Germany at around 2,000. One alleged member told the Munich newspaper Abendzeitung that the southern German city was "the bastion of the Ku Klux Klan in Europe, it’s the foreign headquarters of our secret organization."
White hoods and Nazi salutes
German Neo-Nazis soon after took up KKK ideology and symbolism. After an attack on a home for asylum seekers in Neuenrade (North Rhine-Westphalia) in 1991, "KKK Herford" stickers were found in the possession of the accused. They depicted a hooded man with an ax, and next to the image was the address of a German branch of the KKK: POB 1747, Bielefeld.
The same stickers later appeared in pubs and affixed to street lamp posts in the Ruhr region. In the fall of 1991, then KKK leader Dennis Mahon travelled to Germany to take part in a nighttime meeting held in a forested are near Königs-Wusterhausen (Brandenburg).
Some 50 hooded men turned up, burned a cross -- and Mahon spoke rapturously of his clan and its collaboration with German Neo-Nazis. Together, he said, they were building a "terror front."
Currently, the Internet yields traces of at least four alleged KKK groups in Germany. One, in Berlin, is led by a person who has dubbed himself “Archbishop” and is called “Reverend Imperial Wizard” by his followers. On the web, he claims to have received the Klan's highest distinction. He also claims he’s not a racist. Authorities say his handful of followers are under surveillance by the police and the secret service.
But where does the surveillance end? And where does a certain complicity between Klan and state begin? Two higher-ups in the organization are said to have worked as informants for the secret service. One of them, who went under the name of "Piato," was involved in the Königs-Wusterhausen cross burning. He was also one of the Neo-Nazis who, a few months later, beat an asylum seeker to near death. While in custody pending trial, Piato is said to have begun cooperating with authorities.
Another informant – called "Corelli" in secret service documents – was also active in Klan circles. His real name was on an address list hidden by NSU terrorist Uwe Mundlos in 1998 in a garage. And now, in Baden-Württemberg, there is speculation as to whether a long-standing German KKK leader was also a secret informant. All this has awakened the interest of the NSU inquiry committee in Berlin, and they want to know more about the German KKK. Committee member Hartfrid Wolff even goes so far as to ask: "Were there any members who weren’t informant for the police or secret service?"
There were also points of contact between the KKK and the NSU. In the mid-1990s, some 20 Neo-Nazis met near Jena and burned crosses. Included in their number were NSU terrorist Uwe Böhnhardt, his girlfriend Beate Zschäpe, and alleged NSU supporter Ralf Wohlleben. The state prosecutor’s office in Gera filed a suit after they found photographs in Zschäpe’s possession showing a burning cross and people giving the Nazi salute.
Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.
[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.
• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.
• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.
• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.
• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.
• Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.
• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."
— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.
🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS
Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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