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Infamous German neo-Nazi arrested

May 15, 2017

One of Germany's most prominent far-right figures applied for asylum in Hungary and was then subsequently arrested, according to reports on Monday. Horst Mahler claimed he was being persecuted in Germany.

Deutschland Horst Mahler in Gericht
Image: Getty Images/M. Villagran

A prominent former German left-wing militant turned neo-Nazi applied for political asylum in Hungary, where he was arrested, German daily TAZ reported on Monday, citing a spokesperson from the Munich prosecutor's office.

A German court in 2009 sentenced Horst Mahler to 10 years in prison for inciting hatred and Holocaust denial, which is a criminal offense in Germany. The 81-year-old former lawyer was released early two years ago due to poor health, but was then ordered back for other offenses committed while in prison. Instead of returning, he went on the run in April.

- Holocaust-denying German lawyer Horst Mahler on the run

Further investigations are also pending, including the publication of what authorities say is an anti-Semitic book.

Regional daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung cited an open letter Mahler published on May 12 requesting asylum from Hungary and its president, Viktor Orban.

Arrested in Hungary

Mahler wrote that he was being "persecuted" for publishing a book.

"The work is a religious-ideological declaration. It has no relation to Holocaust denial," Mahler wrote.

The Hungarian embassy in Berlin denied the asylum request. On Facebook, the embassy said: "Hungary is a state of law and a member of the EU. Germany is also a state of law and member of the EU." The asylum request "therefore lacks any basis," it said.

From left to right

Mahler has a checkered history.  His political career began on the political far-left in 1960s West Germany. As a lawyer, he represented many prominent leftist figures during the political unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin, who later became terrorists in the group that Mahler helped to found: the Red Army Faction (RAF).

Andreas Baader und Gudrun Ensslin
Mahler represented both Andreas Baader and Gudrun EnsslinImage: picture alliance/AP Images

Mahler took part in some of the RAF's criminal actions, including kidnappings and bank robberies, for which he served most of the 1970s in prison. It was in prison that he developed a right-wing worldview.

By the late 1990s, Mahler had become prominent in the far-right scene, and joined the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in 2000. 

He represented the NPD in court when the government attempted to have it banned for being anti-constitutional in the early 2000s. But his opposition to the German state also led him to drop out of the NPD in 2003, on the grounds that its aim was to enter parliament, which meant that "like the parliamentary system itself," as he said, "it was doomed to destruction."

Mahler is one of Germany's most prominent Reichsbürgers, a loose movement that refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the modern Federal Republic.

cw/rt (AFP, dpa, AP)