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Germany to spy on COVID skeptics over concerns of extremist ties

BERLIN — Germany’s domestic intelligence agency will monitor leading protesters against COVID restrictions, the interior ministry says, over concerns they pose a threat to democracy and have ties to right-wing extremism.

The monitoring will focus on members of Germany’s “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) movement, which has emerged as the loudest voice against coronavirus curbs and an active promoter of conspiracy theories that deny basic facts about the pandemic.

Some protest organizers “have clearly demonstrated that their agenda goes beyond simply mobilizing protests against the government’s corona measures,” a ministry statement says.

Their main aim appears to be to “permanently undermine trust in state institutions and their representatives,” it adds.

They are also suspected of seeking links with right-wing extremists such as “Reichsbuerger” (Citizens of the Reich) who question the legitimacy of the modern Federal Republic of Germany, and of spreading antisemitic messages and QAnon myths, the ministry says.

The extremists encourage supporters to ignore official orders and challenge the state monopoly on the use of force, it adds.

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