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Danish Court Allows Neo-Nazi's Extradition to Germany

August 25, 1995|MARY WILLIAMS WALSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERLIN — Gary Lauck, a leading American merchant of neo-Nazi newspapers and paraphernalia, may be legally extradited from Denmark to Germany, where he is expected to stand trial for breaking federal hate laws, the highest Danish court ruled Thursday.

Germany has been trying for almost eight years to secure the arrest and conviction of Lauck, a publisher based in Lincoln, Neb., whom prosecutors consider one of Europe's most pernicious distributors of neo-Nazi materials.

In the years after reunification, Germany underwent a wave of vicious attacks on nonwhites, and German officials blame white supremacists such as Lauck for fueling the violence. "This ruling is a victory," said Ruediger Bagger of the public prosecutor's office in Hamburg, which requested Lauck's extradition and will handle his prosecution once he arrives in Germany. "It can help weaken the neo-Nazi movement."

Realistically, Bagger said, some other shadowy neo-Nazi publisher will almost certainly take over Lauck's business of smuggling illegal newspapers, armbands, stickers and martial-music tapes into Germany. Still, he said, "The extradition could be a strong signal that European countries are no longer willing to tolerate this sort of activity."

German law treats the distribution of hate literature much more harshly than neighboring countries. It is, for example, a crime in Germany to: circulate Nazi symbols such as the swastika; "incite the people" to racial hatred, or suggest that there was no systematic annihilation of the Jews during the Nazi era.

In Denmark, by contrast, near-total freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed. The only exception--and the one that permitted Lauck's extradition--is a recent law prohibiting racist statements that carries mild penalties.

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The differences in free-speech provisions from one country to the next have made it possible for neo-Nazi publishers to set up shop in liberal countries such as Denmark, print materials legally, then ship them secretly into restrictive Germany.

Lauck's newspapers routinely made racist and anti-Semitic statements. In its opinion Thursday, Denmark's highest court cited as grounds for extradition typical Lauck observations such as: "In my opinion, the Jews have been treated too humanely. We must not make this mistake again."

If such statements are found to constitute "inciting the people" in Germany, Lauck could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

In the next few days, Germany and Denmark will arrange for transferring custody of Lauck. His trial must be held within six months.

Lauck's court-appointed Danish lawyer, Erik Liisborg, has suggested that he may bring a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, arguing that his client was unable to get a fair trial in Denmark.

Bagger said, however, that Germany has the right to bring Lauck here first and that if the publisher wants to make a human rights complaint, he must do so from a German prison. There will be no possibility of bail, Bagger added.

Lauck was arrested in March in Greve, southwest of Copenhagen, where he was visiting a group of Danish white supremacists. His case has been controversial in Denmark: Some said his arrest collides with the nation's free-speech traditions; others hoped a high-profile extradition would send a signal that such publishers aren't welcome in Denmark.

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