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7 Sep, 2018 16:47

‘No evidence’ far-right mobsters attacked foreigners during Chemnitz rallies – German intel chief

There is no evidence that the far-right were hunting foreigners during rallies in Chemnitz, according to Hans-Georg Maassen, chief of Germany’s domestic security agency. It has prompted some MPs to say he is not right for the job.

It was widely alleged that radicals were seen chasing down non-Germans during the unrest following massive far-right demonstrations in Chemnitz, where a 35-year-old native was fatally stabbed in a brawl involving migrants. However, Maassen, head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), has expressed his doubts.

“I share the skepticism towards media reports of right-wing extremists chasing down [foreigners] in Chemnitz,” Maassen told Bild newspaper. Videos purporting to show far-right activists attacking foreigners have circulated online since last week, but their authenticity is questionable, according to the intelligence chief.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the video of this alleged incident circulating online is authentic,” he said, before adding that his agency – which in charge of ensuring homeland security – had “no reliable information that such pursuits had taken place.” However, he did not specify which video he was referring to.

He suggested that there is good reason to believe “this is deliberate misinformation, possibly to distract the public from the murder in Chemnitz.”

Maassen’s assessment followed a statement of condemnation from Chancellor Angela Merkel, who offered a clear-cut view of the Chemnitz rallies.

“We have video footage showing that there was targeted harassment, that there was rioting, that there was hate on the streets, and that has no place under our rule of law,” Merkel said last week.

The intelligence chief’s remark triggered criticism from some top MPs. Katrin Goering-Eckardt, head of the Greens’ parliamentary faction, said Maassen “is not up to the job” given the fact that “he only commented on a video, but not on the acts of violence and the public displays of anti-constitutional symbols in Chemnitz.”

Maassen was also slammed by leaders of the German Left Party, who accused the security chief of supporting “fake news campaigns”, which claimed riots in Chemnitz were not accompanied by violence. “Instead of defending the constitutional [order], Maassen abused his office to give the AfD supporters a free hand as they made Nazi salutes and called for the murder of people,” the Left Party co-chair, Katja Kipping said.

The Social Democrats, meanwhile, called for a special session of the German parliament’s Interior Affairs Committee to assess the statements. Ralf Stegner, the head of the Social Democrats’ regional branch in Schleswig-Holstein said that Maassen “went too far,” calling such behavior “unacceptable.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), however, rallied to Maassen’s defense as it argued against “prejudices” against any side. The head of the Union faction in the Bundestag, Volker Kauder, announced that the BfV chief would be questioned during an Interior Affairs Committee meeting next week, adding that any accusations against him before that would only “hurt our democracy.”

“Those constant prejudices against all sides should be finally stopped,” Kauder added.German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who earlier said that he would join the protesters in Chemnitz if he were not a minister, also supported Maassen by saying that he “has full confidence in” the domestic security chief.

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