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White powder sent to German journalists

Louisa Wright
July 4, 2019

Two journalists in Dortmund who report on the far-right have received letters containing a white powder. Dortmund police told DW a special police unit that investigates the far-right has taken on the case.

A woman opens her mailbox
Image: picture alliance/dpa/M. Müller

Letters containing a white powder were sent to two German journalists who report on the far-right in Germany, police in the western city of Dortmund said Thursday.

One letter was sent to a journalist at regional public broadcaster WDR who reports on the neo-Nazi scene and the other was sent to the home address of a freelance journalist who writes about similar issues. Dortmund police said they would not identify the recipients.

The letters were received around noon on Wednesday. Specialists from the fire brigade arrived at both locations and determined the powder was a harmless substance, most likely baking powder.

In a statement, Dortmund police said both journalists have long been reporting on the right-wing extremist scene in Dortmund and both have already been victims of threats in the past.

Read more: Is the anti-immigrant AfD party a one-trick pony?

Defying death threats

Sender unknown

A special police unit that looks into cases involving the far-right is carrying out the investigation.

Police spokeswoman Nina Kupferschmidt told DW that the letter would be checked for fingerprints, but it was unlikely they would find any. Police would also check for stamps to try to trace the letter.

"We have started the investigation … we will have to look at all sides and see if we can find any evidence from the letter, but we can't say who it was that sent it because we don't know yet," Kupferschmidt said.

Threats against journalists not new

Dortmund has a particularly prominent neo-Nazi community and it is not unusual for far-right demonstrations to be held there.

In 2015, death threats appeared on Facebook in the form of fake obituaries for several living journalists who were reporting on the far-right.

"We don't know who posted it or who wrote it, so we can't say [neo-Nazis] definitely did this, but we have had those cases in the past, and we have a very active scene here in Dortmund," Kupferschmidt said. "But it's not that every week we have threats against journalists," she added.

Dortmund Deputy Police Commissioner Alexandra Dorndorf said in a statement that the police "are doing everything we can to clarify the background to the crime and to guarantee the freedom of journalism."

Hendrik Zörner, a spokesman for the Association of German Journalists (DJV), told German news agency dpa the letters "demonstrate once again that journalists investigating the extreme right spectrum are exposed to increased risk."

He urged security authorities to recognize the seriousness of the threats.

The letters come after a local politician in the central state of Hesse, Walter Lübcke, was shot dead outside his home earlier last month. The member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU) had been outspoken in his support for welcoming refugees.

A man with close links to right-wing extremists is being investigated in connection with the murder. He initially confessed, but later withdrew his confession.

Politician's killing an 'alarm bell' for Germany

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