Merkel Removes Intelligence Chief through ‘Promotion’ in Wake of Far Right Outbursts in Chemnitz
The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency Hans-Georg Maassen has been removed from his position after facing criticism of harboring sympathies for the far right in the wake of the the recent far right and neo-Nazi outbursts in the East German city of Chemnitz.
Maassen has most notably questioned the authenticity of video footage reportedly showing far right activists chasing people of migrant background during the Chemnitz demonstrations.
Germany’s government announced on Tuesday it would replace the head of its domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, as cited by Reuters.
At the same time, however, it made it clear that Maassen would not be sacked altogether but would instead be moved to a senior position in the German Interior Ministry.
Maassen had also come under fire for unexplained meetings with members of the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has grown in popularity after 2015, with Germany having accepted some 1.6 million migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, according to some estimates, since then.
A book by a former AfD member has claimed that Maassen advised former AfD chairwoman Frauke Petry on how the far right could avoid monitoring by the BfV.
Maassen’s removal as chief of the BfV has been demanded vehemently by the Social Democrats (SPD), a partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, while he has been defended by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, leader of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkels Christian Democrats (CDU).
“The Office of the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution will be re-filled. In future Mr. Maassen will become a state secretary in the Interior Ministry. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has high regard for Mr. Maassen’s abilities on questions of domestic security, but he will not be responsible for the BfV within the ministry,” the German government said as cited by DW, which explains that the position in question has the rank of a Deputy Minister.
Maassen’s “removal through promotion” has been quick to generate criticism by opposition parties.
“Maassen is no longer the top spy. This is good. But it is a farce that he is practically being promoted and that the SPD is going along with this,” said Dietmar Bartsch of the hard-left Die Linke party.
“The so-called agreement on Maassen is a joke. Either the man is fit to hold high office or he isn’t,” Florian Post, an SPD lawmaker in the Bavarian regional assembly, told the RND newspaper group.
The far-right AfD reacted by stating that removing Maassen as head of the BfV agency posed a threat to national security.
In Germany’s general elections in 2017, AfD in essence became the country’s largest opposition party. It is expected to come in third in Bavaria’s elections on October 14, 2018.
(Banner image: German government)