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Police have raided 40 hate-speech suspects across 12 German states as probes continue into the murder of pro-refugee politician Walter Lübcke. Internet posts were made before and after he was shot dead in June last year.
Frankfurt-based federal prosecutors liaising with investigators in 12 of Germany's 16 regional states staged raids Thursday on 40 suspects accused of posting "criminally relevant comments" about Walter Lübcke.
The administrator of Hesse state's northern Kassel district was shot dead a year ago on his private porch. Two identified neo-Nazis face a murder trial starting June 16.
Four states — Hesse, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Saxony — each targeted at least 6 suspects during Thursday's raids.
The alleged offenses attributed by prosecutors to Germany's far-right scene included public incitement to commit crimes, endorsing crimes, and making disparaging remarks to harm the memory of the dead.
Prior to his murder, Lübcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), had publicly defended Berlin's 2015 decision to welcome into Germany hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Words, then violence
Lübcke's murder had been preceded by rabble-rousing in the internet, said Justice Minister Christie Lambrecht.
The Social Democrat (SPD) in Merkel's grand coalition cabinet told Germany's dpa news agency: "Contemptuous threats and defamation create a dangerous climate for violence."
"Therefore it must be clear: Those who threatened people must reckon with prosecution," she warned.
Incitement probes begun last September
Probes against hate-speech suspects in the Lübcke case began last September.
Hesse's Interior Minister Peter Beuth (also CDU) said Germany as a constitutional state was issuing a "stop" signal against "intellectual arsonists, agitators and rabble-rousers."
"Whoever agitates and stirs up hatred in the virtual realm must be shown [their] very real limits," insisted Beuth.
Murder trial opens mid-June
Frankfurt's Higher Regional Court is due to begin the trial of two key suspects on June 16.
Accused of murder is the 44-year-old Stephan E., whose name is shortened under German privacy law, and his alleged accomplice Markus H, aged 46.
Documenting Lübcke's murder on the first anniversary last Tuesday, German media cast both men as being active for years in far-right extremist circles.
Stephen E. is also accused of the nearly fatal stabbing of an Iraqi asylum-seeker near a hostel in the Kassel region in January 2016.
ipj/rt (dpa, AFP)