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Germany's intel boss pressed to explain comments

September 10, 2018

Germany's interior minister did not criticize the nation's domestic intel boss for casting doubt — and contradicting Chancellor Angela Merkel — regarding far-right violence in Chemnitz. He has, however, asked for proof.

Deutschland Horst Seehofer und Hans-Georg Maaßen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Germany's interior minister, Horst Seehofer, stopped short of directly criticizing Germany's top domestic intelligence official on Sunday, but said he would demand evidence for controversial claims Hans-Georg Maassen made about unrest in Chemnitz last week.

The murder of a 34-year-old man, allegedly by foreigners, in the eastern city of Chemnitz in August touched off a week of far-right and counterdemonstrations that injured dozens.

One narrative that emerged from the upheaval was the story of how neo-Nazis had chased foreigners through the streets of Chemnitz after the murder, a story seemingly proven by video of the incident.

But Maassen called the authenticity of the video into question, prompting widespread condemnation from the Social Democrats (SPD), the Left and Green parties, which said that it was irresponsible to make such a claim without giving a reason or evidence for his opinion. He was also accused, not for the first time, of protecting the far-right.

Interior Minister Seehofer told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday that while he thought Maassen was carrying out his job properly, he also thought it would be prudent for the intelligence chief to offer some proof.

"As a minister, one simply can't suppress any doubts," over a matter so important, Seehofer said, requesting Maassen present his office with documents.

Accordingly, Maassen submitted a report to the Interior Ministry and the Chancellery on Monday, but their contents were not immediately made public.

'We will pursue xenophobia unrelentingly'

The interior minister also clarified that Maassen had come to his office with his opinion before going public, and Seehofer told him that it was his right "to go public at any time" with the information.

Michael Kretschmer, state premier of Saxony, where Chemnitz lies, has also expressed doubts that neo-Nazis "hounded" foreigners in Chemnitz. For this, Seehofer reiterated that he "expects to see something that supports his reasoning."

Seehofer also denied rumors that Maassen was purposely trying to make life difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel and said that the spy chief enjoys his every confidence.

As for right-wing extremism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, Seehofer said "we will uncompromisingly and unrelentingly pursue all three things. "

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.