Germany puts far-right AfD’s ‘Wing’ group under surveillance

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Via Deutsche Welle

Germany’s domestic security agency will run surveillance on the far-right Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) most nationalistic group, media reported ahead of a press conference scheduled for Thursday.

The step designates the AfD group known as the “Wing (“Flügel”) as a far-right extremist group warranting observation from security forces.

Thomas Haldenweg, the president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution — Germany’s domestic security agency — is expected to make an official announcement later on Thursday.

Read more: Germany underestimated far-right terror for ‘too long’

The group was identified as a “suspected case” by the agency in January 2019 and was already being monitored, along with the AfD’s youth branch.

After the far-right attack in Hanau in February in which 11 people lost their lives, the German government saw increased calls from people across the political spectrum to put the AfD under observation. A manifesto written by the perpetrator of the attack contained anti-migrant rhetoric that echoed AfD sentiments.

Thuringia regional leader Björn Höcke (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Schackow)

Thuringia regional leader Björn Höcke

AfD calls the move a ‘mistake’

Ahead of the official announcement, several AfD politicians condemned the move, calling it a deliberate tactic to silence the party.

“This is a politically motivated, anti-AfD convoluted act,” said Jörg Meuthen, spokesman for the AfD. The party has repeatedly said its activities are not unconstitutional and do not warrant observation. 

“The security agency has made a mistake with its allegations,” the party said in a statement on Wednesday.

One of the Wing’s most prominent leaders, Björn Höcke, also spoke out against the decision ahead of the announcement. The Thuringian politician said his calls for the “de-Islamization of Germany and Europe” are “not directed against the freedom of religion anchored in the constitution.”

Read more: Opinion: Thuringia’s election atonement

He said his frequent use of anti-Islam rhetoric did not call for “the collective expulsion of Muslims living in Germany, and certainly not of German citizens.”

How does the ‘Wing’ fit into the AfD?

The AfD, formed in 2014, received 12.6% of the vote at the last German federal election in 2017, and it has representatives in all 16 German state parliaments and in the European Parliament. Members of the party have been accused of spreading anti-Semitic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and racist rhetoric.

The Wing was set up in 2015 in the Thuringian city of Erfurt as a nationalistic splinter group of the party. They eschew clear party lines and hierarchies and as such estimates vary as to how many AfD voters support them.

Reports in German media from 2019 suggest that up to 40% of AfD supporters in Germany’s former eastern states were members of the Wing.

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ed/sms (AFP/dpa)

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