Trial of Top Neo-nazi Leader Begins Under Heavy Security

The trial of one of the key leaders of the neo-Nazi movement in Germany began this week in Berlin under heavy security measures.

Arnulf Priem, 47, was charged with 15 crimes, among them the establishment of an armed group.

This was not the first time Priem has had a conflict with the law. In the 1980s, he was observed by security services for playing in the neo-Nazi rock band The Vandals.

But most recently, Priem, an unemployed industry merchant, reputedly served as a leader of the outlawed Deutsche Alternative organization and other similar neo-Nazi groups.

He was arrested Aug. 13, 1994, after a group of 25 neo-Nazis reportedly assembled on the roof of his Berlin apartment. With iron bars and stones, the neo-Nazis attacked journalists who had gathered in front of the building, reports said. The neo-Nazis had suspected the journalists to be part of an anti-fascist demonstration.

When police searched Priem’s residence, they said they found gas bombs, explosives, gas pistols and an array of Nazi articles and documents that included uniforms, SS hats and curtains made from a flag bearing a swastika.

Other charges against Priem include illegal possession of arms and ammunition, possession of illegal symbols, endorsement of neo-Nazi demonstrations as a “process of self purification” and organization of a gathering to attack public institutions with fire.

In court Tuesday, Priem said the wording of his endorsement of neo-Nazi demonstrations was not intended and that it was made in a “euphoric mood.”

He denied charges that he had planned to attack the journalists with gas bombs, saying he did not even know how to use them.

He said the collection of Nazi symbols in his apartment were “collectors’ items.”

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