Former AfD leader Frauke Petry silent as perjury trial opens | News | DW | 18.02.2019
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Former AfD leader Frauke Petry silent as perjury trial opens

The former head of the populist Alternative for Germany party has appeared in court charged with perjury. Frauke Petry, who faces a possible prison sentence, declined to speak at the opening.

German politician Frauke Petry maintained her silence on Monday as she faced accusations of lying about political campaign finances at an opening court hearing.

Petry's lawyer Carsten Brunzel told the court his client would not speak at this point, before calling for the charges to be cleared.

"The clarity of the law, the time elapsed and the obvious circumstances beg for this case to be stopped now at the latest," Brunzel said.

Petry quit the Alternative for Germany (AfD) soon after she was elected to parliament in the 2017 general election, arguing the party had become too extremist.

As the former head of the populist AFD, she was accused of making false statements to parliament while under oath.

The accusations relate to 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 accused of pressuring candidates into loaning the money by threatening to deselect them from the 2015 state election.

Petry admitted to making erroneous statements about the nature of loans made to her party during campaigning. However, the 43-year-old politician said she did not do so intentionally, claiming to have spoken in error because she "misremembered" the details.

Read more: What kind of party is the AfD growing up to be?

Perjury can carry a sentence of at least a year in jail in Germany, or six months in minor cases. 

Shift in allegiance

Petry condemned the case on Friday, saying it was politically motivated.

"The way this case has developed, it's a clear example of the way the Christian Democrats, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prosecutors linked to them have been trying for four years to hurt me as a person and a politician."

Petry remains a member of both Germany's national parliament where, as a directly elected representative, she holds her seat regardless of party loyalty. She is also a member of parliament in the state of Saxony.

Rather than representing the AfD in both legislatures, Petry sits as a member of the "national conservative" Blue Party, which she leads.

The court is expected to hear 27 witnesses and has scheduled court dates through March 13.

rc/msh (dpa, AP)
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