Clerical boom drowns out German Nazis


GERMANY:Officials of Germany's neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) have filed charges against a Bavarian priest who rang his church bells to drown out their speeches at a rally last July.

Fr Ulrich Boom was so incensed that the NPD was allowed to demonstrate in his tiny town of Miltenberg that he decided to fight back with his six church bells, the heaviest of which - the Mother of God bell - weighs 4,415kg.

As the first NPD officials began to speak, Fr Boom began his deafening cacophony and didn't let up until the demonstration was abandoned 20 minutes later.

Since then, he has become something of a local hero. Even Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber has praised the "civil courage from a courageous priest".

Now, however, the NPD has pressed charges, claiming that Fr Boom interfered with a democratic demonstration, a charge that carries a three-year jail sentence.

NPD officials are experts at taking advantage of Germany's laws guaranteeing freedom of expression and demonstration - a postwar answer to Nazi bans on political opponents - even though they themselves reject the democratic order.

If the case goes to court, Fr Boom will argue that he was exercising his right of religious expression.