Die Weltwoche sparks anger over 'racist' Roma story

Screen grab of the Weltwoche article The article suggested: "They come, they steal and they go"

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The council for Germany's Roma (Gypsies) has gone to court to get a Swiss magazine banned in the country after it used an image of a Roma boy pointing a gun on its cover.

Headlined "The Roma are coming", Die Weltwoche's publication amounts to racial incitement, the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma says.

The agency that supplied the picture says its meaning was distorted.

Die Weltwoche deputy editor Philipp Gut said the article was justified.

He accepted that it had sparked outrage but said it highlighted growing "crime tourism" in Switzerland.

The article was headlined "They come, they steal and they go" and suggested: "Roma families from Eastern Europe are responsible for a large part of the increasing crime tourism".

It examined issues such as prostitution and the use of children for begging and theft, adding caveats that not all Roma are involved.

'Altered meaning'

But it nonetheless provoked outrage, particularly in Germany where half a million Gypsies - as Sinti and Roma were then more usually called - were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

The Central Council said it had gone to court in Heidelberg to try to get the magazine blocked from the country and to file a complaint for racial incitement and libel.

Its head said the article was similar to Nazi propaganda in that it gave the impression that criminality was caused by ethnic origin.

Similar court action was also under way in Austria and Switzerland, the AP news agency reported.

The picture agency Laif said in a statement on its website that photographer Livio Mancini's image had been taken for a feature about the inhumane life of Roma children on a waste disposal site in Kosovo.

"[Weltwoche's] use is distorting, altered the truth and reversed the meaning of the photograph," it said.

However, in a video message on the weekly magazine's website, Mr Gut - one of the article's co-authors - said crime perpetrated by Roma gangs was a reality.

He told reporters that the real scandal was that Roma gangs misused their children for criminal purposes and that the image was intended to demonstrate this.

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