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German state to investigate far-right AfD for 'unconstitutional goals'

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By Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German state is to examine whether the regional chapter of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) is pursuing unconstitutional goals, a move that could lead to surveillance of the party by intelligence agencies.

A spokesman for the state interior ministry of Thuringia said on Thursday the move followed comments by Bjoern Hoecke, a state AfD leader who has decried Germany’s main memorial to Holocaust victims as a “monument of shame”.

Sixty-five percent of Germans considered it appropriate to put the entire AfD under surveillance, a poll conducted for broadcaster ARD showed on Thursday.

On Monday, the states of Lower Saxony and Bremen said their regional security services, tasked with policing unconstitutional activity, had placed their regional chapters of Young Alternative, the AfD’s youth wing, under surveillance because of suspected ties to extremists.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday accused the AfD of stirring up ethnic tension in Germany after a fatal stabbing in the eastern city of Chemnitz that has been blamed on migrants.

The AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote in the September 2017 election, parlaying concerns about Merkel’s liberal immigration policies to become the first far-right party to enter the German parliament in five decades.

It is expected to make further gains in a regional poll in the southern state of Bavaria in October.

In June, the German government condemned an apparent attempt by Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the AfD, to play down the significance of the Nazis in Germany’s history.

Gauland later said he had not intended to trivialise the Nazis and their crimes.

Members of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s ruling coalition, and some conservatives back surveillance of the AfD, citing the participation of Hoecke and other AfD leaders in a march with the anti-Islam PEGIDA group in Chemnitz at the weekend.

(Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Janet Lawrence)