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German Politicians Call for Surveillance of Anti-Immigrant Party

BERLIN — German politicians have called on domestic intelligence officials to place the nationalist Alternative for Germany party under surveillance on suspicion of undermining the country’s constitution, as it stokes resentments against immigrants and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

The call came from members of the Social Democrats, part of the governing coalition, as well as the opposition Greens and some members of Ms. Merkel’s own Christian Democrats.

There had been previous demands for surveillance of Alternative for Germany, but they grew in recent days after images spread of leading party members marching beside supporters of the anti-Islam Pegida movement in the eastern city of Chemnitz. A party leader also expressed support for violent demonstrations there after two immigrants were arrested in the fatal stabbing of a German man.

Horst Seehofer, Germany’s highest security official, rejected the calls, saying he did not see sufficient grounds for monitoring the party. Political parties, their associated organizations and individual politicians can be subject to such measures if the authorities can establish clear evidence of efforts to undermine the principles of the country’s Constitution.

A concert devoted to rejecting anti-immigrant sentiment drew around 50,000 people to the heart of Chemnitz on Monday, the police in the state of Saxony estimated.

The political debate came amid more anger on Monday over the sentencing of a young migrant, believed to be from Afghanistan, to eight and a half years in prison for killing his 15-year-old German ex-girlfriend, in a case that became a flash point for fears over immigration. Many people, particularly those on the anti-immigrant right, condemned the penalty as too lenient.

“A life sentence would have been appropriate,” Alice Weidel, an Alternative for Germany leader, wrote on her Facebook page, citing the stiffest sentence that can be handed to someone convicted of murder as an adult.

Because the German authorities were not able to establish the defendant’s identity definitively, and he claimed to be 15 at the time of the crime, he was tried as a juvenile, so the maximum sentence was 10 years.

The killing, in December 2017, took place in daylight in a drugstore in a small western German town, shocking the nation and emerging as a rallying cry for the far right and others who maintain that the government cannot guarantee the safety of Germans in the face of a wave of immigration. Hundreds of demonstrators and counterdemonstrators converged on the town, Kandel, in unrest that gripped the city for days and left dozens of people injured.

Although overall violent crime in Germany remains below its 2007 peak, anti-immigrant activists and far-right politicians have seized on violent crimes committed by migrants. They argue that Ms. Merkel’s relatively welcoming policy toward refugees from the Middle East and Africa poses a threat to the country’s safety, as well as to its national identity.

Prosecutors argued that the killer had been jealous after his victim broke up with him several weeks earlier. In keeping with Germany privacy law, he was identified only as Abdul D., and she as Mia V.

Twelve days before she was stabbed, Mia filed a report with the police in which she accused Abdul of insulting and threatening her, and her father reported him to the authorities two days before her death.

She was killed more than a year after a German medical student was raped and strangled by an Afghan in Freiburg, and days after a German woman was raped by a Sudanese migrant in the nearby town of Speyer, two attacks that further hardened views on the far right.

Volker Poss, the mayor of Kandel, said right-wing groups were organizing demonstrations in the town for later Monday, to protest what they considered an overly lenient sentence for the killing.

Although an expert analysis had suggested that Abdul was over 17, and possibly as old as 20, the authorities decided not to try him as an adult, which meant the trial was closed to spectators.

Because migrants under age 18 are treated as juveniles in Germany, they are afforded better benefits, including access to schooling and protection from deportation until they become adults. This has led many young men to enter the country without documents and lie about their ages.

There is also some question about the defendant’s origins. He said he was from Afghanistan, but officials have been not been able to confirm that.

He arrived in Germany in 2016, a year that saw a surge of migration to Europe, primarily from the Middle East and Africa, and applied for asylum as a refugee. Like one of the suspects in Chemnitz, he had been denied asylum but had not yet been deported.

In Chemnitz, an industrial city near the border with the Czech Republic, tens of thousands people packed the city center on Monday night, joining a local punk band’s call for Germans who support a tolerant, diverse society to take back the narrative from the right-wing nationalists.

The concert, held under the motto “We Are More,” began with a moment of silence for the victim of the Chemnitz stabbing, identified only as Daniel H., 35, before leading German punk, rap and rock acts took the stage. The victim’s widow told Germany’s mass-circulation Bild daily that her late husband was “neither right nor left” politically and “never would have wanted” the demonstrations held in his name.

The police in Chemnitz would not allow anti-immigrant groups to register counterprotests in the area surrounding the concert, taking place around a statue of Karl Marx that has been the scene of violent protests over the past week.

Richard Pérez-Peña contributed reporting from London, and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin.

Source: NYT > World

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