Germany's security agency steps up watch on far-right AfD
Germany's domestic intelligence agency said on Tuesday that it will step up monitoring for political extremism in the far-right AfD party, a blow to the party in a busy election year.
The five-year-old AfD or Alternative for Germany, the country's biggest opposition party, opposes multiculturalism, Islam and the immigration policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom it labels a "traitor".
The BfV security agency shied away from immediate full surveillance of the entire party, including phone and email taps, the use of undercover informants and collection of personal data on MPs. But it "has first indications of AfD's policies that go against free-democratic fundamentals," said BfV chief, Thomas Haldenwang, announcing the agency has designated the party a "review case".
The details gathered so far were insufficient to warrant full surveillance across the party, Haldenwang said.
The agency will give heightened attention to the AfD's youth organisation JA, which is suspected of having ties with the extremist Identitarian Movement. It also placed under surveillance the AfD's most far-right grouping "The Wing" (Der Fluegel), led by nationalist Bjoern Hoecke.
Hoecke has sparked outrage with statements on Germany's Nazi past, calling Berlin's Holocaust monument a "memorial of shame" and urging a "180-degree shift" in the country's culture of remembrance.
The AfD's leaders immediately blasted the measure as "politically" driven and its co-chief Alexander Gauland said the party will "take legal action against this decision."
The BfV can place under surveillance individuals and groups, including politicians and parties it considers "extremist" and threatening to the state's liberal democratic order. It has in the past placed under surveillance some lawmakers of the far-left opposition Die Linke party, which emerged in part from the former East Germany's communist party.
In recent months, the BfV reviewed inflammatory statements and social media posts of AfD members.
News of the stepped-up BfV watch comes as a blow to the party, which in 2017 elections won 13 percent of the national vote and is represented in all 16 state parliaments.
The populist party hopes to make further gains in European parliament elections in May and in three autumn state polls in Germany's formerly communist east, its electoral heartland. (AFP)