Far-right MP faces police complaint over ‘incitement to hate’

Police in Cologne have filed a complaint against a prominent member of Germany's far-right AfD party over a tweet on New Year's Eve which they say violated anti-incitement laws.

Far-right MP faces police complaint over 'incitement to hate'
Beatrix von Storch speaking in December in Hanover. Photo: DPA.

Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the party's parliamentary faction, had criticized Cologne police for sending out information in Arabic on Twitter.

“What the hell is going on with this country? Why is an official police site … tweeting in Arabic?” she wrote. “Did you mean to placate the barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping hordes of men?”

Von Storch's tweet appeared to reference chaotic 2015 New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne, which were marred by mass sex assaults on women by men of mostly North African origin.

Cologne police told AFP their complaint alleges that the tweet flouted laws against incitement to hate.

Von Storch's account was blocked by Twitter for 12 hours following her post, and the tweet has since been removed.

She posted the same comment on Facebook, which then also took it down, citing “incitement to hate (paragraph 130 of the German penal code)”.

Twitter and Facebook's tough stance came as an anti-online hate speech law came into effect on January 1st in Germany.

Social media companies that fail to remove illegal inflammatory comments could face up to €50 million ($60 million) in fines.

AfD chief Alexander Gauland took aim at the new rules, saying in remarks carried by national news agency DPA that the regulations are “Stasi methods that remind me of communist East Germany”.

Gauland, who is not active on social media, encouraged users of such websites to “keep publishing” the erased comments from von Storch.

A Cologne police spokesman said it was long-standing practice to send out information in several languages during large gatherings and events.

“We simply want people to be able to understand us,” said the spokesman.

The AfD seized 92 parliamentary seats in September elections – the strongest showing for a far-right party in the post-war era – as it capitalized on discontent over the more than one million asylum seekers who arrived in Germany since 2015.

X-rays for age?

The refugee issue has again captured public attention over the New Year, with a debate about whether asylum seekers claiming to be minors should submit to medical checks such as hand X-rays to determine their age.

Conservatives, especially from Chancellor Angela Merkel's camp, have pushed to standardize the probes after the murder of a 15-year-old girl in the western town of Kandel by her Afghan ex-boyfriend.

READ ALSO: German doctors criticize ages tests for refugee minors

The perpetrator claims to be the same age as the victim, but the girl's father believes him to be significantly older.

Universal medical age checks for refugees “would be an encroachment on welfare,” radiologist and German Medical Association president Frank Ulrich Montgomery told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in response to the calls.

“X-raying without any medical indication is interference with people's bodily integrity.”


German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.