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German court authorizes surveillance of far-right AfD party

Rejecting legal challenge, ruling finds that anti-Islam, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany can be classified as a suspected threat to democracy

People attend an election campaign event of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) in front of the Charlottenburg palace in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 24, 2021. (Michael Sohn/AP)
People attend an election campaign event of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) in front of the Charlottenburg palace in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 24, 2021. (Michael Sohn/AP)

FRANKFURT, Germany — A German court ruled Tuesday that the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) can be classified as a suspected threat to democracy, paving the way for the domestic intelligence agency to spy on the opposition party.

The court said it had dismissed a legal challenge brought by the AfD last March that delayed plans by Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) to put the party under surveillance.

The administrative court in Cologne however found that there were “sufficient indications of anti-constitutional goals within the AfD,” it said in a statement.

As a result, the BfV is allowed to officially classify the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant party as a “suspected case of right-wing extremism.”

The classification authorizes intelligence agents to tap the party’s communications and use undercover informants.

AfD leaders had sought to argue that the party had distanced itself from its most extreme members by disbanding the hardline “Wing” faction led by Bjoern Hoecke.

But judges in Cologne said key figures from the faction still had “significant influence” in the party.

The court also criticized the extremist leanings of the AfD’s youth wing, saying along with former “Wing” supporters these members believed that the “German people should be kept ethnically intact and ‘outsiders’ should be excluded as far as possible.”

“This goes against the Basic Law,” the court said, referring to Germany’s constitution.

Founded in 2013, the AfD started out as an anti-euro outfit before morphing into an anti-immigrant party.

After seizing on public anger over an influx of refugees in 2015-2016, the party stunned Germany’s political establishment to win its first seats in the national parliament in 2017.

It has since been weakened by endless infighting and waning concerns about immigration.

The AfD scored just over 10 percent of the vote in last year’s general election, down from almost 13 percent previously, despite efforts to court critics of the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

Joerg Meuthen quit as the party’s co-leader in January, accusing the AfD of drifting too far to the right and displaying “totalitarian” leanings.

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