Ex-police officer and wife arrested over far-right letters in Germany

Prosecutors said Monday they arrested a former police officer and his wife who they suspect of having sent threatening emails to politicians and other public figures across Germany, signing them off with a neo-Nazi reference.

Ex-police officer and wife arrested over far-right letters in Germany
A police officer in Kassel, Hesse in 2019. Photo: DPA

A 63-year-old former officer who already has a police record over previous far-right crimes and his wife, 55, were detained on Friday in the Bavarian town Landshut in the case that has sparked a row over right-wing extremism within German law enforcement.

“Both are suspected of sending several emails with insulting, hate inciting, threatening content to parliamentarians and various other addressees,” said Frankfurt prosecutors in a statement.

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

The unnamed suspects have since been released as prosecutors said they did not have sufficient evidence as yet to remand them in custody.

But investigators were combing through data carriers seized from the suspects.

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.

The so-called “NSU 2.0” affair has already claimed the scalp of police chief Udo Münch of the state of Hesse, who resigned after it emerged that police computers were used in the search for details about a far-left politician who subsequently received one of the threatening letters.

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

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

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

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

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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.