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Far-right AfD leader Alice Weidel 'employed Syrian refugee as cleaner'

Co-leader of the anti-immigration AfD Alice Weidel paid an asylum-seeker under the table, the German newspaper Die Zeit claimed. It's been a difficult week for Weidel, who was viewed as her party’s liberal face.

The weekly newspaper said it had learned that Weidel had initially paid a female Islamic Studies student to clean her home. When the student left, Die Zeit said, the job was passed on to an asylum-seeker.

Both women were paid 25 Swiss francs (€22, $26) per hour in cash, said the report, and neither had a contract of employment and no invoices were provided.

Read more - 10 things you need to know about Germany's right-wing AfD

Questioned by the newspaper about the legality of such an arrangement, Weidel's lawyer initially said the one-day deadline for a response set by the paper was "too short for the elaboration of relatively complex legal issues."

Weidel's lawyer later told Die Zeit that she had a "friendly contact" with a Syrian who was also a guest in her house. "But that the asylum-seeker was employed in our client's house or had worked as an employee or received a salary is incorrect."

The claim is likely to lead to allegations of hypocrisy, with Weidel having called for tougher asylum laws and accusing the German navy of participating in human trafficking by helping migrant boats in distress.

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A fresh new image?

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now polling at between 8 percent and 11 percent and looks set to surpass the 5 percent threshold to gain parliamentary representation after Germany's September 24 general election.

Weidel - who lives in a lesbian relationship with a Swiss partner who was adopted from Sri Lanka as a child - was installed as co-leader of the party in April alongside tweed-jacketed 76-year-old former civil servant Alexander Gauland. The 38-year-old media-savvy business consultant, who spends much of her time in China, was seen as a choice that might represent the AfD in a more outward-looking and liberal light.

Read moreAlice Weidel: The pride of the populists, a mystery to everyone else

'Pigs and marionettes'

However, with Gauland already fending off allegations of racial incitement, Weidel was left defending herself from accusations of racism with the leaking earlier this week of an email that she had allegedly written.

The email contained references more commonly used by extreme right-wing members of the party, with claims that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government was seeking to flood Germany with "Arabs, Sinti and Roma" and that Germany needed to maintain its "genetic unity." It also referred to the government "pigs" who were "marionettes of the victors of World War II."

However, Weidel's lawyer has insisted that the email was nothing more than a fabrication.

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