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Franziska Giffey attack: Police detain 74-year-old man

Published May 8, 2024last updated May 8, 2024

The left-leaning politician sought medical treatement after she was hit "on the head and neck" in a Berlin library, the latest in a string of similar attacks in Germany. A 74-year-old man was later detained by police.

Berlin's state minister for economics, energy and public enterprises gives a press statement on an attack on her after a presentation of a solar energy campaign
Giffey was back to work on Wednesday, attending an event for a solar energy campaign and giving a press statement on the attackImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Berlin's state minister for economy, energy and enterprise, Franziska Giffey of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party (SPD), was injured in an attack at a library in the Rudow district of the German capital on Tuesday.

Giffey, a former mayor of Berlin and an ex-federal minister, "briefly went to hospital for outpatient treatment for head and neck pain," police and the Berlin prosecutor's office said in a statement. 

What we know about the incident

The attacker suddenly attacked Giffey "from behind with a bag filled with hard contents and hit her on the head and neck" in a library on Tuesday afternoon, police said.

The Gertrud Hass Library in the southern Berlin neighborhood Alt-Rudow
Giffey was attacked at an event in a Berlin library on TuesdayImage: dts-Agentur/picture alliance

The politician herself later took to social media to say: "After the initial shock, I can say I'm fine." 

But in her Instagram post, Giffey did condemn a "'fair-game culture in which people who are politically active and engaged in our country are increasingly exposed to supposedly justified and acceptable attacks."

"They are a transgression of boundaries that we as a society must resolutely oppose," she wrote.

The Berlin public prosecutors office on Wednesday said a 74-year-old man had been temporarily arrested, and that an investigation into the motive of the alleged perpetrators was ongoing.

The man was said to have already been known to police over issues relating to state security and hate crime.

Later on Wednesday, Berlin prosecuters announced that the man had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

"The decision to preventatively commit the suspect to a psychological clinic has been legally issued and and carried out," they said in an online post. 

The accused was due to appear before an investigating judge on Wednesday.

Pattern of attacks on politicians

In another incident on Tuesday, a 47-year-old Greens politician in the eastern city of Dresden was threatened and spat upon as she hung up campaign posters.

A DW reporting team was at the scene and recorded the incident.

Fears in Germany over rise in political violence

A man, 34, and woman, 24, both German nationals, are under investigation for their suspected involvement, police said.

They reportedly belonged to a group of people standing nearby as the politician began her work. That group is also under investigation after an illegal Nazi slogan was allegedly heard emanating from it.

The attacks come just days after assaults on the European lawmaker Matthias Ecke and a Green Party campaign worker.

Ecke, a member of the European Parliament for Chancellor Olaf Scholz's SPD, was set upon by four attackers as he displayed EU election posters in Dresden on Friday night, according to the police.

Politicians condemn 'spiral of violence' 

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, warned of the threat posed to democracy by such incidents and called for the perpetrators to face full legal consequences for their actions.

In a speech to fellow Christian Democrats in Berlin, she said, "We must protect all those who stand up for our democratic society and our country from attacks — regardless of which party they belong to, whether privately, during election campaigns or in the exercise of their duties, day or night."

Berlin's state minister for sports, Iris Spranger, "strongly" condemned the attack "on Franziska Giffey and on other politicians and election workers, all of whom are committed to a democratic debate."

"The state and federal police forces are doing everything they can to protect politicians. The conference of interior ministers agreed yesterday at the special session that democracy must be protected more effectively against hate speech and false information."

"The protection of individuals from such attacks under criminal law also serves to protect democracy itself."

The co-chairperson of the Greens, Ricarda Lang, wrote on X that such attacks had become the norm for many people involved in the election campaign and that she "has the greatest respect and deep gratitude" for those who continued to work for democracy.  

Local lawmakers increasingly insulted, threatened, attacked

jsi,tj/nm (AFP, dpa)

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