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    Two British Soldiers Charged With Membership of Far-Right Terror Group

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    Three British men, including two soldiers, have appeared in court on charges of being part of a banned neo-Nazi group, in just the latest indication Western military ranks are home to their fare share of extremists.

    Three men, including two British soldiers — Mikko Vehvilainen, Mark Barrett and Alexander Deakin — accused of being part of banned neo-Nazi group National Action (NA), appeared in Westminster magistrates court September 12 charged with terror offences.

    ​Vehvilainen, based at Sennybridge Camp, Wales, is also charged with possessing a document containing information likely to be useful for terrorism and publishing threatening, abusive or insulting material, by posting comments on a website intending to incite racial hatred. The 32-year-old is also charged with possessing pepper spray.

    Barrett, 24, based at Gaza Crescent in Dhekelia Garrison, Cyprus, faces a single charge of membership of NA, contrary to the Terrorism Act 2000. The group has been described by the Home Office as "virulently racist, antisemitic and homophobic", and in December 2016 became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned under terrorism laws.

    "The group rejects democracy, is hostile to the British state and seeks to divide society by implicitly endorsing violence against ethnic minorities and perceived 'race traitors'," the Home Office says.

    ​Deakin, a civilian from Birmingham, faces the same charge as well as possession of documents likely to be useful to a person preparing to commit an act of terrorism, and distribution of a terrorist publication. The 22-year-old is also charged with inciting racial hatred concerning National Action stickers posted at Aston University campus in Birmingham in July last year.

    Arresting force West Midlands police said the arrests were "pre-planned and intelligence-led" and there was no risk to public safety.

    National Action

    NA is a racist neo-Nazi group established in 2013. Its members conduct street demonstrations and "stunts" to intimidate communities, and distribute propaganda to recruit young members.

    Little is known about the size of the group or individual members, but charity Hope Not Hate has called NA a product of the "political and ideological demise" of the British National Party.

    The group has ties to Thomas Mair, the white supremacist who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in West Yorkshire in June 2016. The killer's only statement in court was "death to traitors, freedom for Britain" — a slogan that appeared on NA's former website. After Cox's murder, the group posted online messages that included, "our thoughts go out to Thomas Mair" and "only 649 MPs to go."

    NA also published an image celebrating the terrorist attack on gay nightclub Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, and another depicting a police officer's throat being slit.

    Mourners grieve at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016.
    © REUTERS/ Jim Young
    Mourners grieve at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016.

    The group has also repeatedly used the phrase "Hitler was right" at marches and in online propaganda, including videos depicting members performing Hitler salutes. Although NA has targeted Muslims, it is chiefly anti-Semitic, propagating Jewish conspiracy theories. As with many other far-right groups, NA foresee a coming race war. In the group's case, they believe Islamist terrorist attacks will trigger the ethnic conflict — and they see it as their role to lead legions of indigenous white residents of the UK into war against Jews.

    Police arrested 22 suspected members or associates of NA last year alone — but despite the crackdown, the group continues to operate by taking on different names (said to include Scottish Dawn and NS131) which have not yet been banned or proscribed as terrorist groups, a technique also employed by Anjem Choudary's national Islamist network.

    According to Hope Not Hate, some hardline NA activists split off from the group prior to the December 2016 ban to form smaller, more extreme factions, including the undisruptively titled Omega Systems.

    Far-Right Magnets

    The UK is not the only country where far-right extremists have been uncovered in the ranks of the military.

    In May, a 28-year-old Bundeswehr Lieutenant named Franco A. was arrested on suspicion of terrorism, having allegedly drawn up a list of attack targets, including former German President Joachim Gauck and Justice Minister Heiko Maas. It was subsequently revealed the individual was a member of a network of right-wing extremists operating in the German army, which had planned to carry out terror strikes and blame them on refugees. In all, over 2,500 cases of right-wing extremism have been reported to Germany's military authorities between 2011 — 2017.

    ​When the Franco A. scandal broke, former lieutenant colonel in the Bundeswehr Juergen Rose told Sputnik Deutschland that many aspects of military life are attractive to people with far-right sympathies, such as its hierarchical organization, exercise of power and handling of weapons. For this reason, the army must be very careful in its recruitment in order to exclude those who hold extreme right-wing views.

    Related:

    UK Authorities Ban Neo-Nazi Group National Action
    Nazi Legacy Looms Large Over Bundeswehr Far-Right Terror Scandal
    Bundeswehr Reveals 2,500 Cases of Far-Right Extremism Since 2011
    German Military Investigating Far-Right, Nazi Sympathies in its Ranks
    Tags:
    far-right extremism, far-right militants, far-right, terrorism, military, National Action (UK), Bundeswehr, Jo Cox, Germany, United Kingdom, Cyprus
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