Germany Expected To Put Right-Wing AfD Under Surveillance For Violating Constitution Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has wrapped up a two-year investigation into the Alternative for Germany. The party's far-right branch is already under surveillance.

Germany Expected To Put Right-Wing AfD Under Surveillance For Violating Constitution

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

To Germany now, where the government is expected to put the country's largest right-wing opposition party under surveillance. This means several dozen politicians in Germany's parliament may soon be monitored for racist and other unconstitutional behaviors that threaten Germany's political system. NPR's Rob Schmitz reports.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: In German, it's called the Verfassungsschutz.

MELANIE AMANN: If you translate the name literally, it's called Agency for the Protection of the Constitution.

SCHMITZ: Melanie Amann is Berlin bureau chief of the German news magazine Der Spiegel. She says the Verfassungsschutz is on the lookout for potential threats to Germany's democratic constitutional system.

AMANN: This agency has the power not only to do surveillance on fringe groups, domestic terrorist threats, but also to keep an eye on any political institution, like a political party.

SCHMITZ: The driving force behind the creation of the agency and its surveillance powers were the American-led Allied forces, who, after World War II, helped write a new German constitution with an eye towards preventing the return of Nazi ideology. That's why the very first article of the constitution guarantees the right to human dignity. And now the Verfassungsschutz is on the verge of making an unprecedented move, placing Germany's largest right-wing opposition party, the Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, under surveillance for violating that very article of the constitution. This comes nearly a year after a far-right faction of the AfD, known as der Flugel, was put under surveillance by the Verfassungsschutz for the same reasons.

Amann, who has written a book about the AfD, says in its report, the agency provided examples of politicians denigrating Muslim migrants to Germany.

AMANN: For example, they were all treated as potential terrorists. They were dehumanized in the speeches. They were compared to animals.

SCHMITZ: AfD politicians also trivialized Germany's Nazi past.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BJORN HOCKE: (Speaking German).

SCHMITZ: Speaking at an event in 2017, the leader of the Flugel faction, Bjorn Hocke, called the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin a monument of shame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEXANDER GAULAND: (Speaking German).

SCHMITZ: A year later, AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland likened Germany's Nazi era to a speck of bird droppings in more than a thousand years of what he called successful German history.

(APPLAUSE)

THOMAS HITSCHLER: (Through interpreter) If you look at how the AfD has been behaving for some time now, it's clear it's acting against our democracy and our constitution.

SCHMITZ: Social Democrat parliamentarian Thomas Hitschler is a member of the committee that keeps checks on Germany's intelligence agencies. He says the Verfassungsschutz has spent two years gathering evidence that'll inform their decision to put the AfD under watch. But AfD politician Georg Pazderski says the agency is run by Angela Merkel's government, staffed with members of her CDU party. He says the CDU is worried about how fast the AfD has become a presence in Germany's parliament. The party now has 88 members in the Bundestag.

GEORG PAZDERSKI: If you have an opposition party, which is very successful within a very short time, and we become a danger for the ruling parties, especially for the conservative CDU. And this is a reason why they are trying to stigmatize us, really to put us in the Nazi corner and also to spread wrong rumors.

SCHMITZ: But Social Democrat Hitschler says the process is not political and its findings must withstand legal scrutiny.

HITSCHLER: (Through interpreter) Its decision must be so watertight legally that it will stand up in the courts. The AfD have legal recourse to contest the decision, and the agency isn't about to lose face in court with a poor case.

SCHMITZ: AfD politician Jens Maier, already under surveillance for being part of the far-right Flugel wing, told NPR by email he's worried that civil servants like police officers will cancel their membership out of fear of losing their jobs. While the Verfassungsschutz is able to tap phones and use informants to gather information on whomever it monitors, Maier says he hasn't noticed the surveillance. Whenever Germany announces its decision, the AfD is expected to file a lawsuit challenging it, and that may take years to resolve. Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMPARO'S "COASTAL DUSK")

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