Germany searches 100 suspects over political hate speech

Police searched and questioned more than 100 suspects in Germany on Tuesday over hate speech directed at politicians on social media during last year's election campaign, authorities said.

Online hate and Facebook
A teenage boy puts his head in hands with the home page of Facebook open on his laptop. Photo: picture alliance / Oliver Berg/dpa | Oliver Berg

The suspects were identified after investigators combed through more than 600 social media posts, according to federal police and the national internet crime hub ZIT in Frankfurt. 

They are accused of directly insulting politicians from all parties represented in the Bundestag parliament as well as spreading false information, including fake quotes, according to the authorities.

Two thirds of the politicians targeted were women.

The suspects were based in 13 of Germany’s 16 states including the capital Berlin, where police searched eight private addresses.

In Rhineland-Palatinate state, police found weapons, ammunition and other illegal objects on one of the suspects.

Germany introduced stronger penalties last year against hate speech directed at politicians after the murder of pro-migration politician Walter Lübcke by a neo-Nazi in 2019.

“Freedom of expression reaches its limits as soon as it comes to defamation, insults and threats,” said federal police chief Holger Muench.

The day of raids made it clear that “anyone who posts hate speech must expect the police to show up at their door”, he said.

Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann said posting hate speech on social media was “not a trivial offence” and he hoped the searches would deter others from posting such content.

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Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.