German police probe far-right links to CDU assassination

German police probe far-right links to CDU assassination

Murdered German politician Walter Lübcke of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU in Hesse was probably killed for his support for immigrants, detectives say. 

The 65-year-old head of government in the central German town of Kassel was probably killed for his liberal attitude towards asylum seekers, investigators said.

Lübcke was shot dead on June 2 at his home in Istha, central Germany.

Extremists openly celebrated his murder online.

He had become a regular target of far-right abuse after he was filmed in 2015 telling critics of Merkel’s refugee policy that they were free to leave Germany.

Detectives believe it was a politically motivated assassination by a right-wing extremist who may not have acted alone.

Stephan Ernst, 45, who has been named as the main suspect, had links to neo-Nazi groups, including a possible connection to the NSU (National Socialist Underground).

Detectives are now asking if the murder was carried out by the far-right network, after a neighbour saw two cars leaving the scene at high speed.

The organisation shot dead 10 people, mostly migrants, between 2000 and 2007.

The president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said the murder investigation would be “a test of whether this country has really learned something from the murders of the NSU”.

Police reported that Ernst’s DNA was found on Lübcke’s clothing. Ernst was convicted of an attempted bombing of a refugee home in the 1990s.

The mayors of Cologne and Altena received death threats this month.

Both Henriette Reker and Andreas Hollstein, who promote a liberal approach to asylum policy, have survived assassination attempts in recent years.

Far-right violence “must be resisted from the outset and without any taboos”, Merkel recently said.  

Lübcke’s murder was “not just a terrible act but also a major challenge for us to examine on all fronts where there are extreme-right tendencies”, the outgoing chancellor added.

The eastern city of Chemnitz witnessed the killing of a German-Cuban man, allegedly by a Syrian and an Iraqi. But police were unprepared for how swiftly extremists mobilised in the city and “hunted down” those of foreign appearance.

Germany’s anti-migrant, far-right AfD was quick to condemn Lübcke’s murder.  But it has been blamed for using toxic language that encourages extremism.

The new CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said: “The loss of verbal boundaries, how the hatred and incitement is used by AfD and others, lower thresholds so far that they turn into pure violence.”

Germany’s past means the rising number of far-right threats are taken very seriously. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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