German intelligence services should be surveilling the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to monitor their possible links to radical groups, the deputy parliament speaker said Monday.
“The refugee debate is dividing our society and the AfD is riding this wave more radically than ever,” Thomas Oppermann told Welt. “This is why [Germany’s domestic intelligence service] has to investigate the collaboration between the AfD and neo-Nazis very closely.”
Oppermann’s comments come in response to further protests by AfD supporters and anti-immigrant groups over the weekend in the eastern city of Chemnitz, prompted by the fatal stabbing of a German man, allegedly at the hands of two Muslim refugees. The AfD has latched onto violent crimes suspected of being committed by migrants, such as the one in Chemnitz, as a way to criticize Angela Merkel’s refugee policies and rally support.
Oppermann accused the AfD of taking the debate about refugee policies from the parliament to the streets, willingly provoking violence. He said this should not be tolerated by the German state.
“The AfD has once again shown its real face when party leader [Alexander] Gauland called the riots in Chemnitz ‘normal outrage.’ Whoever speaks like this is attacking the foundations of our justice system,” Oppermann said.
The German government has condemned reports of far-right protesters “hunting down” foreigners after the stabbing, and authorities have also launched legal proceedings against people for giving Nazi salutes.
In a statement on Monday, the AfD denied that foreigners have been “hunted down” during their rallies and insisted their events are peaceful. The party also said that “extreme right slogans and symbols have no place in our free society.”
“The AfD firmly opposes extremists who abuse legitimate protests in order to publicly promote their anti-democratic worldviews,” the statement added.