- Germany’s BfV spy agency conducted a two-year review of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
- The AfD is Germany’s biggest opposition party. Its members have been linked to neo-Nazism.
- The BfV now has the power to tap phones, monitor emails, and spy on the whole party.
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Germany’s domestic spy agency has placed the country’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party under surveillance for far-right extremism.
The decision by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) was made on February 25 and first reported by Der Spiegel on Wednesday. The New York Times has also reported the news.
It is the first time a major political party has been subject to such scrutiny in Germany since World War II, and the classification means that the BfV can now tap the phones of AfD members, monitor funding, and surveil the party’s activities, Der Spiegel reported.
The BfV has been monitoring select local branches of the AfD for years, but the decision to place the whole party under surveillance was made after a two-year review of the party’s activities.
The resulting 1,000-page report concluded that the AfD have violated conditions of human dignity and democracy under German law, Der Spiegel said.
The BfV is yet to confirm the decision, saying it is prevented by active legal proceedings in Cologne between the AfD and the German government, Reuters said.
AfD leaders suggest political motivations
Alexander Gauland, a co-leader of the AfD, said Wednesday that the move to place the party under surveillance was a dangerous step.
“The agenda is clear. First we are made a ‘case to investigate,’ now we are a ‘suspected case’ and are under surveillance — and at some point there will be a request to ban our party,” he said, according to Reuters.
Alice Weidel, another co-leader, tweeted Wednesday: “The intelligence agency is acting purely politically when it comes to the AfD.”
The AfD was founded in 2013 and rose to prominence in 2017 on an anti-immigration ticket following the decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel to permit one million displaced migrants to settle in Germany.
The AfD’s popularity peaked in 2018, and it currently has the third-most seats in the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, with 88 out of 709.
However, the party has seen a drop in support during the pandemic due to the success of the ruling party coalition in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
Germany is set to hold state and federal elections this September. Merkel is currently serving her final term as chancellor, meaning her successor would be selected in this year’s elections as well.
Members accused of white supremacy and neo-Nazism
The AfD is ostensibly a nationalist and anti-immigration party, but some of its members have been accused of white supremacy, racism, and neo-Nazism, meaning the party has expelled members who cross the line.
In May 2020, Andreas Kalbitz was expelled as head of the AfD in Brandenburg for not declaring that he was previously a member of the neo-Nazi group, German Youths Loyal to the Fatherland.
And Björn Höcke, once the AfD leader in Thuringia state, was expelled in 2017, after saying Germany should not be so apologetic about the Holocaust.
In 2018, Gauland said Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party was just a “speck of bird poop” in Germany’s illustrious history, and once said that the German people didn’t want the likes of Jerome Boateng, a Black footballer, “as a neighbor.”
The party has also co-opted slogans used by the Nazis, including “Lügenpresse” the German equivalent of “fake news” which translates as “lying press.”
The Central Council of Jews in Germany praised the move by the BfV, telling Reuters: “The AfD’s destructive politics undermine our democratic institutions and discredit democracy among citizens.”
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