Merkel ends spy chief crisis with compromise

Merkel ends spy chief crisis with compromise

Germany’s domestic spy chief has been moved to another top job after accusations of showing sympathy to the extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other far-right groups.

Crisis talks were held over the future of Hans-Georg Maassen between Chancellor Angela Merkel, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Socialist Democrats boss Andrea Nahles, who lead the three ruling parties.

Maassen led the Office of Constitutional Protection, which monitors extremist organisations that threaten German democracy.

He was leaving the intelligence agency for an Interior Ministry job under Seehofer, government spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted. His new job is seen as essentially more senior.

The move, which was condemned by pundits as a face-saving measure that amounted to nothing less than a promotion, lets Merkel’s fourth-term survive another day.

Nahles, as well as the opposition Greens, Free Democrats and Linke parties, had called for Maassen to be sacked. Seehofer, who defended the intelligence boss, threatened to bring down Merkel earlier this year over her immigration policy.

Maassen questioned a viral video appearing to show protesters harassing migrants during right-wing rioting in the eastern city of Chemnitz (pictured) after the fatal stabbing of German-Cuban Daniel Hillig and arrests of an Iraqi and a Syrian last month. The Iraqi has now been released.

It appeared to show far-right protesters chasing a man while shouting xenophobic slogans.

Maassen told Bild the video could have been faked and questioned the accuracy of reports that protesters in Chemnitz had “hunted” immigrants.

He said the video might be “false information”, in a Trumpish phrase, contradicting Merkel, who had condemned the attacks and “hatred in the streets” based on the video.

His opponents said the video had been authenticated the video and called on Maassen to reveal evidence for his comments.

The spy chief wrote to Seehofer saying the video had not been falsified and that his remarks had been misunderstood, according to the German media.

“Maassen is no longer the top spy. This is good. But it is a farce that he is practically being promoted and that the SPD is going along with this,” said Dietmar Bartsch of Die Linke on the far left.

“This government has reached its end. It is an emergency government of the election losers.”


Street violence in Chemnitz. Picture credit: YouTube

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