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Seehofer won't sack intelligence chief despite fears of far-right sympathies

GERMAN Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said today he had full confidence in intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen, despite the latter appearing to downplay neonazi violence in Chemnitz earlier this month.

Mr Maassen has been attacked by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, for questioning the authenticity of a video that shows far-right thugs running down and attacking a foreign-looking man in Chemnitz.

He also said his BfV intelligence agency had no evidence that foreigners were “hunted” in the streets, despite widespread footage which led Ms Merkel herself to use the term.

Mr Seehofer told parliament today he still had confidence in Mr Maassen, a day after the latter was grilled by two parliamentary committees.

The interior minister is well known for his hostility to immigration — he was himself called on to resign in July after he boasted of having deported 69 Afghan refugees on his 69th birthday and one of the number committed suicide on arrival.

He told MPs that Mr Maassen had explained his remarks “comprehensively” and “convincingly” and was debunking “conspiracy theories” about the violence in Chemnitz.

Social Democrat MP Eva Hoegl said that the security services must enjoy “our unrestricted confidence and, if there is even the slightest doubt about that, there is a problem. So we should act differently here.”

The party’s youth wing has called on it to quit the coalition if Mr Maassen is not dismissed.

Die Linke MP Martina Renner has also called for the intelligence chief’s resignation.

She pointed to revelations that he met an MP of the far-right Alternative for Germany, Stephan Brandner, in June and handed him a preview of the Constitutional Protection report, an annual assessment of activities of groups the German state sees as extremist, including organisations of the right and left as well as Islamist outfits.

Even the parliamentary interior affairs committee did not get preview copies of the report before it was published, she noted — but Mr Brander was given a draft five weeks in advance.

Renner said: “What was the motive for discussing the contents of the future report with Mr Brandner, representative of a far-right party?”

Links between German security services and the far right have been exposed before. A far-right activist who blocked a TV crew from filming a demo in Dresden last month turned out to be an off-duty police officer.

Last year one of two people arrested in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania for plotting to kidnap and kill prominent leftwingers turned out to be a police officer. This led to Green politician Monika Hermann calling for action against “right-wing forces in the police and army.” Criminologist Tobias Singelnstein said that there was “a touch of the deep state” about that crime and said investigations into far-right terror needed to look at links to “the police, the lawyers, politicians.”

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