The founder of an anti-refugee group has reportedly moved to Tenerife to escape “persecution” in Germany.
Lutz Bachmann has previously referred to those fleeing conflict and persecution as “scum” but has reportedly been living on the Spanish island, off the coast of northern Africa, for several months.
The 43-year-old is a leading member of Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West”, and has led anti-immigration marches of tens of thousands of people.
Described by one politician as “Nazis in pinstripes”, the group is regularly met by counter-demonstrations accusing members of racism, fascism and xenophobia.
Pegida members have been met with water cannon and pepper spray by riot police at recent demonstrations, with signs calling asylum seekers “rapefugees” frequently seen in crowds.
Mr Bachmann stepped down from his official post as leader in January 2015 after dressing up as Hitler in a “joke” picture on Facebook, and was found guilty of inciting hatred earlier this year.
But he remained a regular attendee at Pegida’s Monday marches in Dresden – until being conspicuously absent from several recent demonstrations.
The Sächsische Zeitung reports that Mr Bachmann and his wife are now living in Tenerife, having left their former home near Dresden in May.
In a video posted on social media, he said he was working on the island, adding that his wife was unable to cope with pressure in Dresden, where he said they had been subjected to vandalism and attempted break-ins.
“We have been persecuted,” Mr Bachmann continued. “There were four break-in attempts in two months…my car was blown up.
“This is for my safety and the safety of my family.”
Tatjana Festerling, the former co-leader of Pegida who was ousted after a dispute with Mr Bachmann, claimed he returns to Germany every two weeks for “a show of resistance.”
Mr Bachmann said he would be attending a protest scheduled for 3 October in Dresden in his video.
Addressing the message to “dear patriots” on Tuesday, Mr Bachmann did not confirm whether he had moved to Tenerife permanently but said he was working on the island, “unlike Europe tourists without fixed employment”.
“People are not interested in where I live and work,” he added. “They couldn’t care less as long as I show my face on Mondays.”
But from the reaction in Germany, he could be wrong. The country’s largest newspapers have reported on his departures, with many commenting on the “irony” of a person who has denied the existence of “real refugees” fleeing to another country for his safety.
Mr Bachmann has not responded to The Independent’s request for a comment.
Pegida continues to hold weekly marches in Dresden and has formed factions in several European countries, including the UK.
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