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Call off PEGIDA rally, says Germany's Maas

January 11, 2015

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has urged the "anti-Islamization" group PEGIDA to call off a march planned for Monday. He accused the group of "exploiting" jihadi killings in France.

Participants hold a banner during a demonstration called by anti-immigration group PEGIDA, a German abbreviation for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West", in Dresden December 15, 2014. Several thousands opponents of Germany's policy towards asylum seekers and Islam took part in the protest in the eastern German town on Monday. The banner reads, "Peaceful and united against wars of religion in Germany!" REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday called on the organizers of a rally by "anti-Islamization" group PEGIDA scheduled for Monday to cancel the protest, saying the movement was capitalizing on the recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris.

"If the organizers had a shred of decency they would simply cancel these demonstrations," the mass-market Bild newspaper quoted him as saying in its issue to be published Monday.

"The victims (of the Paris attacks) do not deserve to be abused by rabble-rousers like these," he said.

"It's just disgusting how the people behind these demos are exploiting the heinous crimes in Paris," he added.

Weekly rallies

PEGIDA - an acronym for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" in German - has been holding weekly Monday rallies since October in the eastern city of Dresden, drawing a record 18,000 people to its last protest.

It has asked participants in its planned rally on Monday to wear black armbands and observe a minute's silence for "the victims of terrorism in Paris."

Seventeen people died last week in a three-day killing spree by Islamist radicals in the French capital, Paris. In the deadliest incident, two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, killed 12 people, including cartoonists and policemen, in an attack on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which is known for its irreverent take on religion, including Islam.

Maas said it was reprehensible that PEGIDA wanted to commemorate victims "that last week they still insulted as lying journalists."

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas
Maas is an outspoken critic of PEGIDAImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Rainer Jensen

The right-wing populist group often accuses mainstream media of lying about immigration and other issues.

On Saturday, some 35,000 people gathered in Dresden to protest against racism and PEGIDA's rallies.

Arson attack in Germany

Maas' comments came shortly after a firebomb attack on the German tabloid "Hamburger Morgenpost."

The mass-circulation daily had reprinted satirical cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, and police are investigating whether there is an Islamist link to the attack early on Sunday morning, in which no one was injured.

Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident, which saw rocks and an incendiary device thrown through a window of the paper's headquarters in the northern city of Hamburg, causing minor damage.

tj/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)