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Does Chemnitz video show a manhunt? Controversy continues over domestic intelligence head's statement

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Does Chemnitz video show a manhunt? Controversy continues over domestic intelligence head's statement
Maaßen on Tuesday in Berlin. Photo: DPA
09:59 CEST+02:00
Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has not found concrete evidence that a video showing a manhunt of foreigners in Chemnitz was falsified, as he originally claimed, according to German media reports.

The controversial assessment, which was sharply criticized by Angela Merkel, is said not to have been verified by Maaßen's staffers. He was due to face a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, amid widespread calls for his resignation. 

According to information in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Maaßen stated in a letter to Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) that the video was not forged, but rather that he had doubts that it “authentically” showed a manhunt. 

In a four-page letter of clarification to Seehofer on Wednesday, however, Maaßen explained himself in more depth, and also made accusations against a Twitter user Antifa Zeckenbiss (Antifacist Tickbite), who had originally posted the video with the wording “Menschenjagd (Manhunt) in Chemnitz". This could have likely been done to achieve a desired effect, he wrote.

Maaßen furthermore said he made the statements in order to show support for Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU), whose government had stated that there was no such hunt in Chemnitz".

Maaßen emphasized that he had "in no way doubted that there were demonstrations and crimes organized and carried out by right-wing extremists in Chemnitz".

At the same time, the intelligence head, contrary to what was reported by the media, stated that he had "never claimed that the video had been falsified or manipulated".

Political response

On Wednesday, Maaßen was due to attend a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for the Control of the Secret Services (PKGr) and also a special meeting of the Interior Committee in the Bundestag to discuss his statements about the video.

"Either he succeeds in eliminating doubts that are placed in his administration and communication, or he has acted negligently,” Free democrats (FDP leader) Christian Lindner told the Passauer Neue Presse on Tuesday. “Then he would no longer be considered a trustworthy protector of our constitution."

The deputy chairman of the CDU and North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet told the Rheinische Post that: "Constitutional protectors should observe enemies of the constitution and not give interviews to the Bild newspaper.

Maaßen had told Bild on Friday that his office had no reliable information that, after the violent death of a German allegedly by asylum seekers in Chemnitz two weeks ago, "hunts" had taken place against foreigners in Chemnitz.

He thus contradicted Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Maaßen went on to say that there was also no evidence that a video circulating on the Internet about the incidents was authentic. He was sharply criticized for these statements, and Seehofer, as Maaßen's superior, demanded clarification.

His statements come at a tense time in Germany. Additional right-wing violence broke out earlier this week in Köthen and Halle following the Sunday death of a German man after a brawl with two Afghanis. 

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