German nationalist MP faces probe over anti-Muslim tweet

A leading politician of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is facing investigation for possible hate speech she made on Twitter against Muslim migrants.

Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the AfD, lost her cool over a New Year tweet sent by Cologne police in Arabic, besides in German, French and English.

“What the hell is happening in this country? Why does an official police site tweet in Arabic,” wrote von Storch. She suggested the police were trying to “appease” what she described as “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men.”

Her angry tweet drew several hundred complaints prompting Twitter to block her account for 12 hours and Cologne’s public prosecutor’s office to launch an investigation into possible hate speech.

Von Storch’s AfD, which was inaugurated in 2013, rose in popularity quickly as it changed its profile from an anti-euro party to an anti-Islam and anti-migration group. It won over 12% seats in the federal elections held last year.

Senior public prosecutor Ulf Willuhn told dpa that his office will be investigating whether von Storch violated Germany’s new hate speech law which came into effect on January 1.

Under the new rule, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have to remove an illegal content within 24 hours after it is reported or face fines up to $53 million. In cases which are not clear, the deadline may be extended to a week.

Cologne police were surprised over von Storch’s reaction as it is a standard procedure for them to tweet information in several languages on major events. They have filed a criminal complaint to prosecutors over suspected incitement.

Willuhn said von Storch’s parliamentary immunity has to be suspended before starting an investigation.

Responding to the twitter row, AfD leader Alice Weidel criticised the government for submitting to “imported, marauding, groping, abusive, knife-stabbing migrant mobs”.

AfD said the removal of von Storch’s remarks  was nothing short of censorship.

Cologne witnessed mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in 2015. Most of the suspects were said to be of North African or Arab descent. Women said they were groped, robbed or intimidated. In the 2016 event, police were pulled up for questioning hundreds of revellers of North African origin. In 2017, a special “safety zone” was set up for women in Berlin.