COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) – A German court on Tuesday ruled the domestic spy agency was justified in placing the Alternative for Germany (AfD) under surveillance on suspicion of being a threat to democracy, rejecting a complaint by the far-right party.
The radical nationalist faction of the AfD, known as the “The Wing”, had been formally dissolved but its protagonists continued to exert influence within the party, said the court in the western city of Cologne, where the spy agency is based.
A policy goal of The Wing as well as the AfD youth organisation the Young Alternative was to protect the ethnic integrity of the German people and keep out “foreigners”, the court said. This was at odds with Germany’s democratic constitution.
The court said it also detected agitation against foreigners within the anti-immigration party.
The ruling dealt a blow to the AfD after the court on two previous occasions restricted the BfV domestic intelligence agency’s monitoring of the party on the grounds that such activities put it at a disadvantage and amounted to interference with the democratic process.
A year ago, the court temporarily prohibited the BfV from placing AfD under surveillance, a major embarrassment for the government of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel.
That ruling was issued two days after the BfV’s decision to start eavesdropping on some AfD members and scrutinize its finances, the first such measures against an elected party since the Nazi era ended in 1945, was leaked to the media.
The AfD was propelled into the national parliament in 2017 by voters opposed to Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome almost a million asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa. In the most recent federal election last year, it received 10.3% of votes, down from 12.6% four years earlier.
(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf, Sarah Marsh and Maria Sheahan in Berlin and Stephane Nitschke in Cologne, editing by Mark Heinrich)