German state set to lift immunity for right-wing AfD leader Frauke Petry | News | DW | 17.08.2017
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German state set to lift immunity for right-wing AfD leader Frauke Petry

A committee in Saxony has unanimously recommended that AfD co-chair Frauke Petry's immunity be lifted due to suspected perjury. The nationalist lawmaker is suspected of lying under oath about campaign finance in 2014.

A parliamentary committee in the eastern state of Saxony reached a unanimous decision on Thursday to recommend that Frauke Petry's immunity from prosecution be lifted on the grounds of suspected perjury.

Petry, the co-head of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and top state lawmaker, also requested her immunity be lifted during the committee's hearing.

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 Read more: German prosecutors seek to lift immunity of nationalist lawmaker Frauke Petry

The decision now clears the way for the state prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against Petry, after investigating the matter for over a year. Petry herself requested during the hearing that the committee clear the way for the charges to be brought and has maintained her innocence.

Should no state parliament member contest the committee's decision within the next seven days, the decision to lift Petry's immunity will be final. As AfD members also took part in the committee's vote, it's not expected that the decision will be contested.

The AfD's secretary-general, Uwe Wurlitzer, welcomed the committee's decision, saying that the investigation will only end up clearing Petry's name.

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Conflicting testimony

Petry is suspected of lying under oath in November 2015 when she and fellow AfD member Carsten Hütter are alleged to have given conflicting testimony on the AfD's candidate list and campaign financing ahead of Saxony's 2014 state election.

The accusations concern loans that AfD candidates in Saxony gave to the nationalist party in order to support its campaign in the eastern German state. The AfD was then accused of taking one candidate off its state list because he didn't want to give a loan to the party.

Read more: AfD top candidate Alexander Gauland - Close Germany's borders

In the subsequent parliamentary hearing on the issue, Petry and Hütter gave differing accounts on when Petry knew about the loans.

The AfD is expected to enter the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, for the first time in this September's general election on an anti-immigration and anti-EU platform.

Last year, the party enjoyed high poll ratings around 15 percent, cashing in on dissatisfaction with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy.

Thursday's decision is the latest blow to the party, whose popularity has slumped in the last year as several prominent AfD members have found themselves caught up in scandals. The AfD is currently polling at 8 percent, which is still down from last year but enough to put the party over the 5-percent threshold required to enter the Bundestag.

Read all DW content related to the German election here

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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