BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency failed for months to act on reports from officials in two states voicing concerns about local youth chapters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.
The report could strengthen calls for the ouster of BfV president Hans-Georg Maassen, whose critics say he has downplayed anti-migrant violence in the eastern city of Chemnitz and have questioned his relationship with far-right politicians.
Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who heads the Bavarian conservatives, will meet again on Tuesday to discuss Maassen’s fate with Andrea Nahles, the head of the Social Democratic coalition partner, who has called for the spymaster to be fired.
“Mr. Maassen needs to go, and I tell you, he will go,” Nahles told reporters late on Saturday.
Maassen came under fire on Sept. 7 after saying he was not convinced far-right extremists had attacked migrants in Chemnitz and questioned the authenticity of a video said to show the violence before his agency finished its assessment. He has since said his comments were misunderstood.
Police are investigating charges of anti-migrant violence and numerous cases of people showing the Hitler salute during protests that erupted in Chemnitz after an Iraqi man and a Syrian were arrested in the fatal stabbing of a German man.
Maassen’s ties to the far-right have been questioned in the past. This year, a former leader of the AfD’s youth wing, Franziska Schreiber, said Maassen had advised ex-AfD leader Frauke Petry on how the party could avoid being put under surveillance by his agency. He has denied giving such counsel.
Then last week, the BfV was forced to deny a report by public broadcaster ARD that Maassen had told an AfD lawmaker about parts of a report from his agency before it was published.
The newest allegations, to be published by Bild am Sonntag on Sunday, center on reports sent by state security officials in Bremen and Lower Saxony to Maassen’s agency about the AfD youth chapters in their state, and their suspected ties to extremists.
Both states have put the AfD groups under surveillance, but their reports “were left untouched at the BfV headquarters for six months”, the newspaper quoted a senior intelligence source as saying. It said the BfV had no response to queries.
It was not immediately clear if or when those reports were brought to the attention of Maassen.
Maassen, meanwhile, is pressing to more than double his staff to 6,000 people by 2021, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday, citing sources at the interior ministry.
A spokesman for the interior ministry, which oversees the BfV agency, declined to comment on the Spiegel report, citing restrictions on public information about the agency.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Tom Koerkemeier; Editing by Ros Russell and Marguerita Choy)