German domestic intelligence services cannot yet officially classify the political party AfD as a movement suspected of right-wing extremism. The Cologne court considers that the service has spoken in turn, because first a brief case has to be awaiting. Also, the judge blacks that leaked to the press.
Several German media reported last Wednesday that the Bundesverfassungsschutz had scaled up the investigation into the right-wing populist AFD. Intelligence has, over the past two years, compiled a file of hundreds of pages indicating that leaders within the party would be guilty of right-wing extremist statements.
By scaling up to so-called Suspect Fall, the service, after approval by the Minister of the Interior, is allowed to use all kinds of espionage techniques, including to eavesdrop or monitor their e-mail traffic. According to German newspapers, this authorisation had now been granted and thus opened the way for in-depth research into the party.
Judge: promise broken
But a court in Cologne is pulling the brakes today. Since January there has been an interim action brought by AfD on account of the (then still forthcoming) decision of the service. Through this emergency procedure, the party wanted to prevent party officials from being bugged and controlled.
In an interim ruling on 27 January, the Cologne Administrative Court rejected that demand by the party, but only after the Intelligence Service had promised that nothing would be published on a possible scale pending the interim proceedings. A so-called Stillhaltezusagen.
That promise has been broken, according to the court, since the decision of the service to classify the AfD as a suspect group appeared extensively in the media on Wednesday. The judge said that “in an unacceptable manner” the principle of equality has been harmed for political parties. Until there is an interim order, the Security Service may not scale up its investigation into the party. A date for the verdict has not yet been announced.
No substantive judgment
The statements of the Cologne Court do not constitute a substantive assessment of the decision of the Security Service to investigate the AfD for right-wing extremism. But the court is ticking the department very hard about the procedure and the leak to the press.
The AfD has already mentioned the situation on Wednesday ‘politically motivated’, especially in view of a number of important elections to be held in Germany this year. The party fears that it will be disadvantaged by the negative messages in its campaign. Today, the national group chairman Alexander Gauland spoke of an “unprecedented earring for domestic intelligence.”