BERLIN – The head of Germany's top far-right party was charged with incitement and defamation Tuesday for allegedly publishing a pamphlet before the 2006 soccer World Cup that prosecutors said called into question whether nonwhite players should be on the national team.
Prosecutor Simone Herbeth said in a statement that Udo Voigt, head of the National Democratic Party, or NPD, was charged with incitement and defamation over the pamphlets. NPD spokesman Klaus Beier and Frank Schwerdt, a leading member, have also been charged, Herbeth said.
"The indictment charges that the accused are responsible for publishing pamphlets ahead of the 2006 soccer World Cup which, through a picture of the No. 25 — worn at the time by a dark skinned player — ... called into question whether this player, as well as other nonwhite skinned players, were worthy of representing Germany as national players," Herbeth said in a statement.
The flyers showed the traditional white German jersey with the No. 25, which was worn at the time by black defender Patrick Owomoyela. They read: "White, not just a jersey color! For a real NATIONAL team!"
Owomoyela, who has a German mother and a Nigerian father, plays for Werder Bremen but is no longer a member of the German national squad.
The NPD called the charges "absurd" and "political" in a statement released on its Web site.
"The German justice authorities are ever more zealous when it comes to pursuing and persecuting the national opposition," the statement read.
Beier insisted in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that the use of No. 25 was "pure chance" and insisted the quality of the printing was unclear, meaning it could be interpreted as a 26 or even a 23.
"Everyone can see their own favorite number in it," Beier said.
Backed by the German soccer federation, Owomoyela filed suit against the NPD in 2006 over the pamphlets, some 70,000 of which were confiscated by authorities during a search at the party's national headquarters.
Prosecutors charge the party then printed another series of pamphlets showing 10 white and one black player in German national jerseys under the question, "German National Team 2010?"