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Two leading politicians in the eastern state have had their immunity from prosecution stripped. The AfD's Björn Höcke faces defamation charges, while a middle finger gesture plagues the Left party's Bodo Ramelow.
Bodo Ramelow (left in both the picture and in his politics) leads the state government, Björn Höcke (right, also in both senses) leads the largest opposition party
The leader of the Thuringian wing of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), Björn Höcke, lost his immunity in the eastern state's assembly on Friday to enable prosecutors to pursue charges that he slandered a rights activist and used hate speech.
Also deprived of parliamentary immunity — but in his case at his own request — was Thuringia's state premier Bodo Ramelow. The Left party politician had already apologized for gesticulating at another far-right AfD legislator with his middle finger during a debate in parliament in July.
A spokesman for the assembly said its judicial committee had lifted both immunities under the chair of Social Democrat (SPD) Dorothea Marx.
She had stood in for the AfD's Stefan Möller — the target of Ramelow's gesture, who co-leads the opposition far-right bloc in the Erfurt chamber alongside Höcke.
Ramelow wrote that he did "not want to be seen standing outside the law" and had asked Gregor Gysi, former Left opposition leader in Germany's federal Bundestag, to represent him as lawyer against prosecutors from Erfurt.
Höcke, meanwhile, faces hate speech and slander charges pursued by prosecutors from Thuringia's city of Mühlhausen over social media remarks he directed at activist Carola Rackete and another woman.
His social media post accused Rackete, who captained a migrant rescue ship to Italy's port of Lampedusa last year, of "importing" criminals into Europe.
Höcke is also accused of slandering a second woman by calling her an ex-RAF terrorist who had wasted taxpayers' money. The RAF, or Rote Armee Fraktion, was an extreme left-wing German terror cell, dissolved in 1998, behind a series of prominent crimes and assassinations.
Rackete, also an outspoken environmentalist, spent three days in Italian prison for bringing ashore 43 migrants in defiance of then-interior minister Matteo Salvini.
ipj/msh (epd, AFP, dpa)