German police identify six suspects who gave Nazi salute at anti-migrant rally

Men matched to images of individuals at previous far-right protests; at one recent protest, attackers injured owner of Jewish restaurant, shouting ‘Jewish pig, get out of Germany’

Illustrative image of far-right demonstrators shouting during a demonstration in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, September 1, 2018. (Jens Meyer/AP)
Illustrative image of far-right demonstrators shouting during a demonstration in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, September 1, 2018. (Jens Meyer/AP)

BERLIN — Police in the German state of Saxony said Thursday they have identified six far-right protesters who gave the stiff-armed Hitler salute or committed other violations at an anti-migrant protest last week.

Police said they were able to match images of the suspects to individuals already identified from previous protests.

The suspects, whose names weren’t released, are being investigated under German laws prohibiting displays of the salute, the swastika and other Nazi symbols.

The protest was sparked by the stabbing death of a German man early August 26. An Iraqi and a Syrian have been arrested on manslaughter charges, and a second Iraqi man is being sought.

The slaying has become a rallying point for far-right groups. Government officials condemned the killing and the violence that followed, but some in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party have voiced understanding for the protesters who took part in the anti-migrant march.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in an interview published Thursday that the issue of migration is “the mother of all political problems in this country.”

Seehofer, who also heads the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, told the daily Rheinische Post that voters were linking their concerns to the issue of migration.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, August 29, 2018. (Michael Sohn/AP)

Seehofer has taken a tougher line on migrants than Merkel, at times sparring with her publicly, as his Christian Social Union party faces steep losses in next month’s Bavarian state election.

Germany has taken in more than a million people seeking shelter from war and persecution since 2015.

Seehofer’s comments were condemned by the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party, which is also part of Merkel’s governing coalition.

“For us, the mother of all solutions is the solidarty of all people in our country,” Andrea Nahles told reporters in Berlin.

Meanwhile, a group that assists victims of far-right violence, warned against downplaying the threat of racist violence in Germany.

The group’s chairman, Robert Kusche, said that since the incident in Chemnitz “organized racists and neo-Nazis across Germany are feeling emboldened.”

Its branch in the eastern state of Saxony, where Chemnitz is located, has recorded 24 cases of bodily harm and 11 cases of threats directed against migrants, journalists, and counter-protesters in the city since August 26.

In one instance on August 27, masked attackers injured the owner of the Jewish restaurant Shalom in Chemnitz, shouting, “Jewish pig, get out of Germany,” the group said, adding that it feared a planned protest by the far-right party Pro Chemnitz on Friday could lead to more violence.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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