German conservatives harshly criticized the Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Wednesday, saying that the far-right party bears some responsibility for the death of Kassel district president Walter Lübcke.
Lübcke, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and a supporter of her refugee policies, was shot dead at his home earlier this month in what prosecutors believe to be a "right-wing extremist" attack.
CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Lübcke's murder shows how the AfD's use of "hate and incitement" has overturned taboos in language and "lowered inhibitions so much that they result in pure violence."
Right-wing populism poses "a great danger to every nation," Kramp-Karrenbauer said in Paris, but "looking at our particularly special history in Germany, it's an even greater challenge for us."
Her comments followed controversial remarks from former CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber. He called out specific AfD politicians as being "complicit" in Lübcke's murder due to their rhetoric. He also argued that those who oppose Germany's constitution should have certain fundamental rights revoked, including the right to free assembly.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned against using an aggressive tone in discussions, saying it could promote violence. Speaking with students in the town of Goslar, Merkel encouraged debate, but she added that people should be "respectful in their choice of language."
AfD enraged over remarks
The remarks from prominent CDU members sparked criticism among AfD leaders and supporters, who accused them of attempting to politicize Lübcke's death.
"It's Mrs. Kramp-Karrenbauer and Mr. Tauber who seem disinhibited," Alice Weidel, one of the party's parliamentary leaders, wrote on Twitter, saying they were "using a murder to discredit political rivals."
AfD co-leader Jörg Meuthen particularly condemned Tauber's comments, which were published in a guest column for the daily Die Welt, and called for him to be removed from his current post as a parliamentary deputy minister in the Defense Ministry.
"It is repulsive and evil as it is wrong," Meuthen told news agency DPA.
The AfD is the first far-right party to enter Germany's parliament since World War II and currently leads the opposition as the country's third-largest party. Several of senior AfD members have been criticized for their remarks on Germany's culture of remembrance of the Holocaust and grew their popularity with an anti-immigration platform.
Lübcke was found dead at his home on June 2 in what appeared to be an execution-style assassination. Authorities are currently investigating whether the suspect currently in custody acted alone.
If prosecutors find that his murder was politically motivated, it would be the first assassination of a sitting German politician since the 1970s.
rs/sms (AFP, dpa)