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Germany reports hundreds of suspected cases of far-right extremism in police forces

Right-wing extremism is not a systemic problem in the German police despite hundreds of examples documented in a new report, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Tuesday.

Germany reports hundreds of suspected cases of far-right extremism in police forces
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

The much-anticipated report, compiled by the BfV domestic intelligence agency, identified 377 suspected cases of far-right extremism in the German police and intelligence services between January 2017 and March 2020.

It follows a string of scandals in Germany in recent months over far-right networks in the police and military, with pressure mounting on the government to address the issue.

“We are dealing with a small number of cases,” Seehofer said at a press conference to introduce the report, stressing that more than 99 percent of the police respect the constitution and have no connection to extremism.

“We have no structural problem with right-wing extremism in the state and federal security services,” Seehofer said.

'Every case is a disgrace'

However, he added that “every proven case is a disgrace” given the role played by the police and security forces in setting an example for the public.

Around 300,000 members of the security forces were asked to fill out anonymous questionnaires for the report in the hope of breaking what unions and experts have called a culture of silence.

The report identified 319 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in Germany's state police forces, as well as 58 at the federal level, including 44 in the federal police.

But Dieter Romann, the head of the federal police, also said Tuesday there is “no right-wing extremist network within the federal police”.

READ ALSO: Germany set to present report on far-right extremism in police

Several regional German police forces have been caught up in far-right scandals in recent months, and a unit of the country's elite KSK commando force was dissolved in July over neo-Nazi allegations.

The German government had previously refused to carry out a full investigation into extremism as it feared tarnishing the reputation of the police and intelligence services, instead favouring a case-by-case approach.

But in a change of stance last week, Seehofer said the government would take a “rigorous” approach and “not cover anything up”.

The Social Democrats, the junior partner in Angela Merkel's coalition government, have repeatedly demanded action, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called in September for a “more resolute” fight against right-wing
extremism.

Germany has been hit by a string of far-right attacks over the last 18 months, leading to Seehofer naming far-right extremism the “biggest security threat facing Germany”.

But at the same time, evidence has mounted of far-right extremism within the police, security forces and military.

Links between the far right and the police are suggested by the makeup of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, where five of the far-right AfD party's 89 MPs are police officers – the highest number of any party.

By Mathieu Foulkes and Femke Colborne

Member comments

  1. When I visited Germany in 2017 I remember very well the way the policeman in charge with checking passports stared at me and my family. This was the welcome reception we tourists have. He stared with disgust to me and my family with no intention to hide it. I think he would harm us if he could. It was pure evilness in his eyes. When I read this I remembered every moment of this situation my wife, my 9 years old kid and me had to face. I do believe you have police involved with far right. Im from Brazil and will someday return to visit this beautiful country despite this disgraceful situation.

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POLICE

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.

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