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11 Sep, 2007 14:48

Belgian police arrest leaders of anti-Islam rally

Police in Belgium have arrested leaders of right-wing groups for carrying out an illegal protest against what they called the ‘Islamization of Europe’. Around 200 protestors gathered in the centre of Brussels, despite an official ban on the event.

Protesters – mainly from Denmark, Germany and the UK – claimed up to 20,000 people would attend. They said they wanted to use the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to get their point across.

However the city's mayor banned the controversial rally fearing unrest between the demonstrators and local Muslims. About 100 policemen, backed up by water cannons and helicopters, were put on alert.

Organisers decided to go ahead with their protest despite being refused permission to hold it: “How can they ban the demonstration? This is the capital of the EU. Why can we not come and talk with our politicians?” said Anders Gravers, leader of an anti-Muslim group, SIOE.

The main demonstration only lasted about 30 minutes. Local authorities said about three-quarters of the 200 or so protestors were arrested.