Germany: Local leader of far-right party attacked, wounded

BERLIN (AP) – A local leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany was attacked and wounded by several people in the northwestern city of Bremen, an assault that drew condemnation yesterday from some of the party’s fiercest opponents.

Bremen police said they believe the attack on Frank Magnitz, a lawmaker in Germany’s national parliament who leads the party’s local branch, was politically motivated. They called for witnesses to the attack, which took place on Monday evening near a city theater, to come forward.

The party, known by its German acronym AfD, said early yesterday that Magnitz was ambushed by three masked men after he left a local newspaper’s New Year’s reception, beaten unconscious with a piece of wood and then kicked in the head as he lay on the ground. He has been hospitalised.

Bremen, Germany’s smallest state, holds a regional election on May 26, the same day as European Parliament elections in which AfD hopes to make gains.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wrote on Twitter that “the brutal attack on lawmaker Frank Magnitz in Bremen must be strongly condemned. Hopefully police will quickly succeed in catching the perpetrators.”

Frank Magnitz, member of the AfD parliamentary group in Berlin, Germany. – AP

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a centre-left politician who has been a strong critic of AfD, tweeted that “violence must never be a means of political confrontation — no matter against whom or what the motives are.”

“There is no justification for this,” he said, calling for those responsible to be punished.

That was echoed by other politicians from established parties, including prominent Green party politician Cem Ozdemir, who said that AfD must be countered by legal means, not violence. “Anyone who fights hatred with hatred always lets hatred win in the end,” he wrote on Twitter.

AfD is represented in all of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. It entered the national parliament in 2017 and is currently the biggest opposition party there.

AfD views the country’s established political parties with contempt, and the feeling is mutual.

“The cowardly and life-threatening attack against Frank Magnitz is the result of constant agitation against us by politicians and media,” party co-leaders Alexander Gauland and Joerg Meuthen said in a statement.

AfD took 10 per cent of the vote in Bremen in the 2017 national election, below its nationwide result of 12.6 per cent. Bremen is not considered a stronghold of the six-year-old party, unlike three states in Germany’s ex-communist east that hold regional votes in September and October.