German public figures receive wave of far-right threats

A wave of threatening messages sent to politicians and other public figures in Germany is larger than previously thought, it emerged Tuesday, deepening a row over possible far-right links in a regional police force.

German public figures receive wave of far-right threats
Photo: DPA

At least 69 threats have been sent to almost 30 public figures and institutions across the country, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister of the state of Hesse.

The anonymous messages were all signed “NSU 2.0”, a reference to the German neo-Nazi cell National Socialist Underground that committed a string of racist murders in the 2000s.

Beuth told the Hesse state parliament that in three cases, the recipients' contact details may have been taken from police computers.

READ ALSO: Hesse police face claims of links with far-right scene

Last week, Hesse police chief Udo Muench resigned after it emerged that police computers were used to search for details of a far-left politician who subsequently received threatening emails.

On Tuesday, Beuth said there was so far “no proof” of a right-wing network within the police.

He added that the state police force was working to “restore its integrity” and identify the sender.

The row entangling Hesse's police force came as German law enforcement services are under close scrutiny over far-right extremism in their midst.

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau

Germany's defence minister last month ordered the partial dissolution of the elite KSK commando force over right-wing extremism.

While far-right extremism was once thought to plague mostly eastern states, Hesse was shaken last year by the murder of pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke at the hands of a neo-Nazi.

It was also in a city in the region — Hanau — where a man gunned down nine people of foreign origin in February this year.

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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.