Another German politician is attacked as concerns rise over violence ahead of EU elections in June

A prominent Berlin politician has been violently assaulted and suffered injuries to her head and neck in the latest attack on elected officials that raises concern over rising political violence in Germany

Kirsten Grieshaber
Wednesday 08 May 2024 09:49 BST
Germany Politics Violence
Germany Politics Violence (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A prominent Berlin politician was violently assaulted and suffered injuries to her head and neck, police said Wednesday, in the latest attack on elected officials that raises concern over rising political violence in Germany.

Frankziska Giffey, the city's top economic official, a former mayor and an ex-federal minister, was attacked at an event in a Berlin library on Tuesday by a man who approached her from behind and hit her with a bag containing a hard device, police said.

Giffey was taken to a hospital and treated for head and neck pain, police said, adding they were searching for the perpetrator.

Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner strongly condemned the attack.

"Anyone who attacks politicians is attacking our democracy,” said Wegner, according to German news agency dpa. “We will not tolerate this. We will oppose all forms of violence, hatred and agitation and protect our democracy.”

Giffey wrote on Instagram that "we live in a free and democratic country in which everyone is free to express their opinion ... and yet there is a clear limit. And that is violence against people who hold a different opinion, for whatever reason, in whatever form.”

“They are a transgression of boundaries that we as a society must resolutely oppose,” she said.

Last week, a candidate from the party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz was beaten up in the eastern city of Dresden while campaigning for next month's election for the European Parliament and had to undergo surgery.

Police detained four suspects, aged between 17 and 18, and said that the same group had apparently attacked a Greens party worker minutes before they attacked Matthias Ecke. At least one of the teens is said to be linked to far-right groups, security officials said.

Also on Tuesday, a 47-year-old Green Party politician was attacked by two people while putting up election posters in Dresden, dpa reported.

The incidents have raised political tensions in Germany.

Both government and opposition parties say their members and supporters have faced a wave of physical and verbal attacks in recent months, and have called on police to step up protection for politicians and election rallies.

Germany's federal interior minister, Nancy Faeser, said after a meeting of the country's 16 state interior ministers that possible measures included tightening Germany’s criminal law in order to "punish anti-democratic acts more severely,”

Many of the incidents have taken place in the former communist east of the country, where Scholz’s government is deeply unpopular. The Interior Ministry in the state of Saxony said it had registered 112 election-related crimes so far this year, including 30 against elected officials or representatives.

Mainstream parties have accused the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, of links to violent neo-Nazi groups and of fomenting an intimidating political climate. One of its leaders, Bjoern Hoecke, is currently on trial for using a banned Nazi slogan.

Alternative for Germany, which campaigns against immigration and European integration, is expected to make gains in the European polls as well as in elections in Saxony and two other eastern German states in the fall.

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