Row over German mosque plan

Planned protest by nationalists invites official ban - and counter-demonstration.

     Leftist protesters outnumbered nationalists on Cologne's streets on Saturday [AFP]

    Some of the counter-demonstrators tried to grab officers' pistols while others threw stones and firecrackers.

    The injured officer was hit by a firecracker. Police said they detained about five people.

    Police forced Pro-Koeln to call off the rally because there were fears that more serious violence would take place, Burkhard Rick, a police spokesman, said.

    Two-day congress

    Up to 3,000 policemen had been drafted in and part of the old city sealed off as authorities appealed for peaceful protests against a  two-day congress called by the Pro-Koeln (For Cologne) group.

    Pro-Koeln activists oppose what they call 'Islamification' [AFP]
    Pro-Koeln had hoped 1,500 people would attend Saturday's rally in the city centre to oppose the mosque and an "immigrant invasion" of Europe.

    Those attending the congress, including like-minded leaders from Belgium, Austria and Italy, were protesting against "Islamification," and voicing support for Europe's "shared, thousand-year history" and "Western values and Christian traditions".

    Fritz Schramma, Cologne's mayor whose city council gave the green light  for the construction of the mosques, criticised Pro-Koeln as "arsonists and racists" hiding under the cloak of a "citizens' movement" in a speech earlier on Saturday.

    An estimated 120,000 Muslims live in Cologne, widely viewed as one of Germany's most tolerant and well-integrated major cities.

    By midday just 30 Pro-Koeln supporters had managed to reach the rally site, a marketplace near the city centre, as thousands of counter-demonstrators blocked streets leading to the square.

    Some 5,000 more counter-demonstrators attended a peaceful rally nearby.

    Saturday was the second day of the Pro-Koeln conference.

    Opening events on Friday were severely hampered when hundreds of largely peaceful protesters managed to prevent the group's leaders from holding a news conference in a municipal building, forcing supporters of the groups to seek refuge on a rental boat cruising the Rhine River.

    Eight people were arrested for throwing stones and paint balls at the boat.

    SOURCE: Agencies


     How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

    How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

    Ninety-nine years since Balfour's "promise", Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed.

    Afghan asylum seekers resort to sex work in Athens

    Afghan asylum seekers resort to sex work in Athens

    In the rundown Pedion Areos Park, older men walk slowly by young asylum seekers before agreeing on a price for sex.

    Profile: Osama bin Laden

    Profile: Osama bin Laden

    The story of a most-wanted fugitive and billionaire.