Prosecutors in Dresden have begun an investigation into Pegida supporters who scoffed at the murder of Walter Lübcke, likely at the hands of a far-right extremist. Supporters said he had it coming.
State prosecutors in the eastern German city of Dresden in Saxony announced on Friday that they had begun investigations against far-right activists for publicly condoning criminal activities. They left the door open to possible charges of incitement to violence and disparaging the name of a deceased person.
Spokesman Lorenz Haase said the State Prosecutors' Office had initiated the investigation on its own, adding that he could not say whether any further complaints had been filed.
Reporters from the monthly ARD show "Kontraste" asked supporters about their thoughts on the June murder of regional Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Walter Lübcke and broadcast their reactions to a national audience on Thursday evening.
Read more: German issues in a nutshell: PEGIDA
Murder, 'a normal human reaction'
Several Pegida supporters who spoke with reporters were dismissive of the slain politician. One man, sporting an Alternative for Germany (AfD) T-shirt and key lanyard, called him a "traitor to his people."
Another called the murder "a normal human reaction," adding: "What comes around goes around."
"You have to thank Mrs. Merkel for Lübcke," another person claimed. "She stoked violence against politicians; she's responsible."
One last man brushed off the threat of right-wing violence: "Compared to the threat of left-wing extremism, a murder every two or three years, carried out for whatever hateful reasons, is harmless."
'What kind of times are we living in?'
Reactions and condemnation were swift. North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier Armin Laschet (CDU) asked on Twitter: "What kind of times are we living in when people openly condone murder in front of the camera?" Laschet added, "One shudders at this abyss."
Saxony's acting State Premier Martin Dulig of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) called for Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) to look into the statements. He said Pegida may pose a domestic security threat: "These aren't 'concerned citizens,' they are paving the way for fascism."
Pegida, keeping investigators busy from the start
According to Saxony's state parliament, the judiciary there conducted some 198 investigations into Pegida speakers and supporters between late 2014 and September 2018. Some 25 cases involved dangerous bodily harm and the display of symbols from unconstitutional organizations.
Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident) was started in Dresden in 2014 in reaction to what adherents say is an Islamic invasion of the West.
The nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic, far-right group has held weekly demonstrations every Monday in Dresden for almost five years. Though the number of participants has dwindled of late, tens of thousands participated in 2015 rallies at the height of the so-called refugee crisis.
Supporter of Merkel's refugee policy
Walter Lübcke, who received death threats for his support of Chancellor Merkel's refugee policy, was shot in the head at his home near the city of Kassel on June 2.
The main suspect in the murder, Stephan E., has been in police custody since June 16. He has a prior arrest record and is known to have contacts with German right-wing extremists. Although he confessed to the murder, he recanted that confession earlier this week.
js/amp (AFP, dpa, epd)