Beliefnet
BERLIN (AP)--Even as it acknowledged reaching out to violent skinheads, a far-right party on Monday denounced government efforts to have it banned for its alleged affinity to the Nazis as an attempt to impose ``Orwellian'' thought control on Germans.

The National Democratic Party, also known by its German initials NPD, has presented its formal written arguments to Germany's highest court, which will review requests from the government and both houses of parliament to outlaw it.

Ministers and conservative opposition leaders compare the party to Adolf Hitler's Nazis and accuse it of feeding the racist ideology seen behind a wave of anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic attacks.

Postwar Germany has banned only two parties: a successor to the Nazis in 1952 and the Communist Party in 1956. The party must be proven not only to reject the German constitution but also to have violent tendencies.

Officials have pledged a crackdown on extremists of all persuasions, and Berlin authorities on Monday followed up a decision to stop the NPD from holding a May Day rally by prohibiting a long-standing far-left march the same day.

But the NPD told reporters the threat to outlaw the party was just a veiled bid to kill off an awkward political foe.

Arguing for dismissal of the case, the NDP appealed to the court to apply European civil rights norms to defend its right to debate issues such as racial differences and the ``real-historical reasons for Jew-hating.''

The party's lawyer, Horst Mahler, a former leftist activist turned far-right leader, said the NPD was also being unfairly stigmatized for its connections with the country's burgeoning neo-Nazi scene.

``We want to win these young people over, not see them as untouchables, but contact them and help them see that it's not right to express their frustration in violence,'' he told a news conference.

Although it gained hundreds of mostly young members last year and claims to lead a burgeoning ``national resistance,'' the NPD remains electorally insignificant. But the government and parliament insist that a ban is needed to bar it from facilities such as television advertising and state campaign funding.

In its application filed with the court last month, parliament's lower house said there are ``an abundance of historical sources that show the NPD has a clear affinity with Nazism,'' racist ideology and aggressive rhetoric. The documents said the party belittles Nazi crimes and has a ``merely tactical relationship to legality.''

The court is to decide by the summer whether to accept the motions seeking a ban. It is not expected to issue a ruling before next year.

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