Monday, May 20, 2024

German court says AfD is ‘suspected extremist’ organisation -Dlight News

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The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has suffered a major legal defeat after a court ruled that the country’s domestic intelligence agency was right to designate it a suspected extreme rightwing organisation.

The verdict means the BfV agency can place the AfD under formal surveillance, putting it on a par with extremist groups long viewed as a threat to the German state.

The court in the western city of Münster ruled there was sufficient evidence that the AfD pursued goals that were “aimed against the human dignity of certain groups of people and the principle of democracy”, a statement from the court said.

It said it had considered a large number of statements by AfD officials who “questioned whether [immigrants] really belonged to the German nation, regardless of how integrated they are into German society and despite their German citizenship”.

“This represents a form of racial discrimination which is unlawful according to the constitution and is incompatible with the [constitutional] guarantee of human dignity,” the court said.

“Today’s verdict shows we are a democracy that is capable of defending itself,” said Nancy Faeser, interior minister.

She said the state had tools to protect German democracy from internal threats and “it is precisely these tools which will now be deployed — and which were once again confirmed by an independent court”.

The ruling is the latest in a string of setbacks for the AfD, which up until the start of the year was backed by more than one in five German voters, putting it ahead of all three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government. Its approval ratings have since slumped after a series of scandals involving senior party figures.

Peter Boehringer and Roman Reusch standing inside the courtroom
AfD members Peter Boehringer, left, and Roman Reusch, centre, waiting for the verdict at the Higher Administrative Court on Monday © Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

In January it was hit by revelations that some of its functionaries met white supremacists late last year to discuss plans to deport millions of Germans with immigrant backgrounds, including German passport holders.

The party has also become embroiled in a number of spying scandals that have badly undermined its credibility. An assistant to Maximilian Krah, who is the AfD’s lead candidate for the European parliament elections, was arrested last month on charges of spying for China.

Monday’s verdict was delivered by the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, one of Germany’s largest states, and upheld a previous judgment of a lower court in Cologne.

That court had agreed with the BfV that there was sufficient evidence to designate the AfD, its youth organisation Young Alternative and a group inside the party called the “Wing” as suspected extremist organisations. The AfD then appealed against the decision.

The court in Münster said Monday’s verdict cannot be appealed, although the AfD can lodge a complaint with the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. Party officials said they intended to do so.

AfD MP Roman Reusch said it was “inexplicable” that the court had dismissed the party’s appeal against the Cologne verdict, “although we had debated complex legal issues for days”.

Peter Boehringer, the party’s deputy leader, said the court had failed to clarify the facts of the matter. “To deny hundreds of our requests to submit evidence verges on a refusal to work, just as we saw in the lower court, which was the main reason we appealed in the first place,” he added.

The BfV welcomed the court’s verdict, saying it had presented it with “weighty evidence” to underpin the suspicion that the AfD was trying to undermine Germany’s democratic system.

This, it said, included statements of a nationalist, xenophobic and Islamophobic nature which amounted to an “affront to human dignity”. It said the party also embraced positions that “disparage democracy and are incompatible with the democratic principle”.

The Münster verdict was praised by parties across the German political spectrum, including Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD).

The AfD was created in 2013 by a group of economics professors angry at the Eurozone bailouts of Greece but gradually morphed into a hardline nationalist movement, some of whose members have been linked to extremist groups that are banned under German law.

The party has been denounced by business leaders for advocating a “Dexit”, or German withdrawal from the EU, a move economists have warned would deal a devastating blow to the German economy.

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