Germany’s head of domestic security is under growing pressure to back up his claim that a video allegedly showing protestors at far-right demonstrations in Chemnitz targeting foreigners may be part of a “misinformation” campaign.
Senior members of Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have called on Hans-Georg Maaßen to appear before the parliament’s secret service committee, amid mounting criticism over his comments, German media reported Saturday.
In an interview with German daily Bild published Friday, Maaßen said the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution had “no reliable information” to support the claim that people had “hunted down” foreigners in Chemnitz, and claimed a video depicting one such incident could be part of a “deliberate misinformation” effort to “distract the public from the Chemnitz murder.”
The eastern German city was rocked by a series of violent protests in late August following the tabbing of a 35-year-old German, after reports suggested that two immigrants were behind the killing. The demonstrations drew thousands of protestors, including neo-Nazis and members of far-right groups. Journalists and rights organizations reported protestors were targeting people they believed to be immigrants. Police are also investigating an attack on a Jewish restaurant that authorities say is likely to have been politically motivated and anti-Semitic, Die Welt reported.
Maaßen’s position — which directly contradicted that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose office claimed video footage showed protestors had singled out people who “look different” — casts doubt over his ability to do his job, SPD politician Stephan Weil, the minister-president of Niedersachsen, told German papers belonging to the Funke media group on Saturday.
He called on the security chief to provide proof for his position, saying: “Otherwise, with such comments he raises the suspicion that he is protecting the far right.”
Maaßen has faced an onslaught of cross-party criticism, including from the SPD and the Greens, but received the backing of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. The conservative CSU politician claimed this week that he understood the anger fuelling the far-right protests.
The interior ministry has said it is still investigating video footage of the protests.
Maaßen “will now have to explain how he came to his assessment and why he shared it through the media,” said Patrick Sensburg, who is in charge of security policy in Merkel’s CDU.
German media also reported that Maaßen met several times with members of the far-right AfD in the past, including allegedly to give them tips on how to avoid being put under surveillance.