Police officers wait for the arrival of German Chancellor Angela Merkels visit to the Saxony branch of Trumpf in Neukirch, Germany, August 16, 2018. Picture taken through a window. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel
Police in eastern Germany were accused Wednesday of stoking tensions by leaking to far-right groups the arrest warrant over a fatal stabbing that sparked racist mob violence.
“It’s unacceptable that some police officers think they can leak things like this even though they know they’re committing an offence,” said Saxony state’s deputy premier Martin Dulig, calling the release a “scandal”.
Saxony, in Germany’s ex-communist east, has again become a hotspot for xenophobia after a knife killing early Sunday in the city of Chemnitz led to protests that degenerated into rightwing extremists hunting down immigrants in the streets.
Police on Monday arrested a 22-year-old Iraqi and a Syrian, 23, suspected of killing a 35-year-old German identified only as Daniel H. with multiple stabbings in the late-night altercation.
Authorities have not yet fully disclosed the identities of the victim or suspects in keeping with the German convention of protecting the identities of people involved in judicial proceedings.
However, the arrest warrant of one of the suspects found its way into the hands of rightwing groups who then posted it online, where it was widely shared, spelling out the full names of the suspects, victim, eye-witnesses and the judge.
National Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called the release “completely unacceptable”, and prosecutors said they had launched an investigation on suspicion of breach of official secrets rules.
Lawyer Sebastian Scharmer, who has defended victims of neo-Nazi violence, said he had filed a criminal complaint against an activist who posted the warrant, Lutz Bachmann of far-right movement PEGIDA, short for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident.
The right-wing “Citizens Movement Pro Chemnitz”, which had also shared the warrant, complained on Facebook that “the internet police” had deleted the document which it said showed how the suspects had “slaughtered” the German man.
State premier Michael Kretschmer, who has defended the police force against charges of being ill-prepared to deal with the far-right rallies, promised that “we will clarify the matter,” speaking to regional public broadcaster MDR.
New protests planned
Saxony has been a stronghold of far-right parties and groups that bitterly oppose Chancellor Angela Merkel for her 2015 decision to keep open German borders to a mass influx of migrants and refugees.
Police in the state have also come under fire for the alleged sympathies of some officers with movements like PEGIDA and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Saxony police last week apologised for obstructing a TV crew at a rightwing anti-Merkel rally at the instigation of a nationalist protester who turned out to be an off-duty police employee.
Dulig said that “it has got to be clear that certain things will no longer be tolerated in the police force”.
The latest controversy comes as the mood remains highly charged following what have been labelled as “pogrom-like” scenes in Chemnitz on Sunday in which extremists assaulted immigrants from Afghanistan, Syria and Bulgaria.
On Monday night some 7,000 protesters, most of them football hooligans and rightwing nationalists, again took to the city’s streets and clashed with anti-fascist protesters, leaving some 20 people injured.
Police said they were investigating 10 incidents of protesters making the illegal Hitler salute.
Police, who were initially overwhelmed by the mobs on Sunday, then also faced criticism for having only deployed 591 officers on Monday, leaving them outnumbered more than 10 to one.
The small deployment came despite a warning by the domestic intelligence service that thousands of extremists, including from the hardcore hooligan and martial arts scenes, were heading to Chemnitz.
The service, in its situation report, spoke of a “nationwide mobilisation” via social media, especially by the hooligan groups “Kaotic” and “NS Boys”, short for “New Society Boys”.
Pro Chemnitz has announced a new demonstration Thursday while AfD and PEGIDA have called for a rally Saturday, with a silent march through Chemnitz in memory of the stabbing victim and against Germany’s “enforced multi-culturalism”.