Germany: AfD party challenges potential spy agency monitoring in court | News | DW | 22.01.2021
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Germany: AfD party challenges potential spy agency monitoring in court

The populist opposition party Alternative for Germany has filed legal action against reported plans to put the whole party under intelligence observation for alleged links to far-right extremism.

AfD party flags lie on a table

Germany's domestic intelligence agency is set to declare the AfD an example of far-right extremism, according to reports

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has launched legal action against the country's domestic intelligence agency amid reports that it is preparing to put the whole party under surveillance over potential ties to far-right extremism.

The dpa news agency on Friday confirmed that the party had filed two legal cases and two emergency motions.

It cited a spokeswoman for the administrative court in the western city of Cologne, site of the headquarters of the federal German domestic intelligence agency (the BfV, also known as the "Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution").

The court is to announce a preliminary decision on Monday, the spokeswoman said.

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Why is the AfD challenging the BfV in court?

According to multiple German media reports, the BfV is next week set to declare the entire party an example of suspected or actual right-wing extremism. The agency has been mulling this step for some time. 

The designation could later lead to full surveillance, including the use of informants — if suspicions of radicalism are deemed serious enough to pursue.

The AfD's legal complaint includes a request for the court to prohibit the BfV from making the declaration.

The complaint cites rules governing the fair treatment of political parties.

The strongest opposition force in the Bundestag parliament, the AfD has repeatedly faced accusations of ties to right-wing extremists. 

Two AfD factions — the party's youth division and the now disbanded offshoot of the senior party known as the Flügel (the "Wing," or "Flank") — had already been placed under formal BfV observation.

The Flügel was placed under full surveillance in March last year after the BfV declared that its members were proven right wing extremists. Another legal complaint requests that the BfV should not disclose details of Flügel's membership, which was reportedly several thousand strong.

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Why was the Flügel faction scrutinized?

The Flügel was set up in 2015 in the eastern city of Erfurt as a nationalistic splinter group of the AfD.

German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk described in 2019 how the radicalization of Flügel's members was apparent at annual meetings.

Journalist Henry Bernhard wrote that the faction increasingly accepted "racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, historical revisionism," which included the downplaying of Nazi-era crimes including the Holocaust.

What has the reaction been?

Mathias Middelberg, the spokesman on domestic policy for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance, said the legal action exposed the AfD's nervousness around the agency's probe.

"They are apparently expecting the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to uncover real evidence of extremism not only in the Flügel, but in the party as a whole," he said.

"It is significant that they would prefer to prevent a possible public revelation rather than distance themselves more decisively than ever from extremists in their ranks like Mr. Höcke," he added, referring to the AfD's state leader in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, who founded Flügel in 2015.

mm/msh (AFP, dpa)

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