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Police probe anti-Muslim group chief over tweet

March 14, 2018

PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann has landed himself in legal trouble over a tweet about a murdered teenager in Berlin. He posted an image of an "ex-refugee" as her "probable" murderer, but police say he had the wrong guy.

PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachman
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Police in Berlin said on Tuesday that they are investigating social media users who circulated false information about the murder of a 14-year-old girl last week — including Lutz Bachmann, the founder of the anti-Muslim protest group PEGIDA.

The teen, identified as Kiera G., was stabbed to death in her home on March 7. The case prompted outrage online from far-right groups and individual social media users who accused Berlin authorities of concealing the suspect's identity and alleged that she had been killed by a migrant.

Read moreFar-right demonstrators face off with counterprotesters in wake of girl's murder

In a now-deleted tweet, Bachmann tweeted two images of a young man he said was "probably" the killer and included a link to a man's Facebook page.

He referred to the man as a "beast from the Caucasus," meaning that he believed the suspect was from Central Asia, and called him a "Chechen Muslim and ex-refugee."

A 15-year-old German boy who was Kiera G.'s classmate was arrested on Sunday. Police said the suspect is not the same person as the one Bachmann linked to in his tweet.

Possible incitement

Bachmann is now being investigated on charges of incitement to hatred, a crime he was previously convicted of in 2016.

"We're investigating for libel, false suspicion and incitement," a police spokesman said on Tuesday.

Bachmann defended himself against the false suspicion charge, saying that his inclusion of the word "probably" in the tweet means he did not directly accuse the person whose Facebook profile he linked to.

Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is the third-largest party in the German parliament, also retweeted or shared posts alleging that refugees were behind Kiera G.'s murder.

Read moreIs it illegal to call someone a Nazi?

Response to murder 'truly terrifying'

Several recent cases of crimes involving refugees in Germany have boosted anti-migrant sentiment, particularly on social media. The spread of false information online particularly put added pressure on investigators involved in the case.

"What happens on the internet after a murder such as this is truly terrifying," Wenzel told The Associated Press. "We have never experienced a murder case being politically exploited in such a way."

Dueling pro- and anti-migrant protesters recently descended upon the southwestern German town of Kandel after a teenage girl was stabbed to death by her former boyfriend, a 15-year-old Afghan refugee.

World Stories - The rise of far-right populists in Germany

rs/rc (AP, dpa, epd)

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