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Germany's AfD decides not to expel critic of Holocaust memorial

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A senior member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party will not be expelled for criticizing the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, the party said on Wednesday.

Member of the AfD had voted to expel Bjoern Hoecke after a speech in which he criticized the memorial in Berlin to victims of the Nazi Holocaust as a “monument of shame”. AfD leaders reprimanded Hoecke, who is the party head in the eastern state of Thuringia, for damaging the party’s image.

The decision by the AfD’s internal arbitration court in Thuringia, already made on Monday, puts an end to legal proceedings that have been going on since February last year.

The arbitration court decided that Hoecke’s speech did not indicate an allegiance to Nazi ideology and that he had not violated the party’s regulations. It found no grounds for his expulsion.

“The proposal of his expulsion was purely motivated by power politics, as Bjoern Hoecke violated neither the constitution nor the regulations of the party,” said Stefan Moeller, the party’s spokesman in Thuringia.

After federal elections last September, the AfD became the third-largest party in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

Set up in 2013 by an economist to oppose euro zone bailouts, the AfD has since morphed into an anti-immigration party, drawing support from Germans angry about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome refugees.

Reporting by Laura Dubois; editing by Larry King