Germany’s government said yesterday it would replace the head of its domestic intelligence agency, putting an end to a row that exposed deep divisions in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pro-Muslim migration government.
Reuters (h/t Winds of Jihad) Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, had challenged the authenticity of video footage attempting to showing far-right radicals harassing Muslim migrants in the eastern German city of Chemnitz.
Maasen came under fire after he contradicted Merkel’s description of a far-right protest in the eastern town. Merkel’s spokesman referred to the scenes as a Hetzjagd, or hounding of migrants. Maasen, speaking to the Bild, said he had seen no evidence such events had taken place.
The main allegation against Maassen relates to his comments about a viral video appearing to show protesters hounding migrants during a violent right-wing demonstration in the eastern city of Chemnitz. The death of German-Cuban man Daniel Hillig and arrests of an Iraqi and a Syrian sparked demonstrations last month. The Iraqi man has since been released from custody, Chemnitz prosecutor said Tuesday.
The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior coalition partners of Merkel’s (not so) conservative bloc, had wanted Maassen removed from the post he has held since 2012.
Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), had stood behind Maassen.
“Interior Minister Horst Seehofer values (Maassen’s) competence on questions of public security,” the government statement said. “Mr Maassen will not be in charge of supervising the BfV at the ministry.” Leftist lawmakers have accused Seehofer of undermining the credibility of the BfV agency by refusing to fire Maassen.
They also accuse Seehofer of being reluctant to act for fear of strengthening the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has also stood behind Maassen and is expected to steal conservative voters from the CSU in a regional election next month in Bavaria.
Maassen’s comments on the video pictures contradicted Merkel’s own assessment. She said they “very clearly revealed hate” which could not be tolerated.
Merkel has been criticized for taking 11 days to act on Maassen, whose comments rejecting that there was far-right violence against Muslims in Chemnitz during an interview with mass-selling Bild newspaper on Sept. 7 triggered the row.
Merkel’s 2015 decision to open the country’s doors to 1.5 million Muslims seeking asylum, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has also been blamed for fueling the rise of the AfD (Alternative for Germany), which became the largest opposition party after an election last year that weakened both Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD. It is expected to come third in Bavaria on Oct. 14.
On Tuesday the AfD said removing Maassen as head of the BfV agency posed a threat to national security.