June 26, 2019 / 9:02 AM / 4 months ago

German far-right suspect confesses to politician's murder: interior minister

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German far-right sympathizer suspected of murdering a pro-immigration conservative politician has confessed to the crime, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: An honour guard stands next to the coffin of Kassel District President Walter Luebcke, who was shot dead by a suspected far-right extremist,, during his funeral in Kassel, Germany, June 13, 2019. Swen Pfoertner/Pool via REUTERS

Federal prosecutor general Peter Frank told members of parliament’s internal affairs committee that Stephan E. had confessed to shooting Walter Luebcke, who was found lying in a pool of blood outside his home in the state of Hesse on June 2.

Luebcke’s murder has revived a debate about whether Germany has been doing enough to combat far-right groups since the chance discovery in 2011 of a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose members murdered eight Turks, a Greek man and a German policewoman from 2000 to 2007.

Seehofer said Stephan E., who was detained on June 15 and whose family name cannot be published under privacy rules, had told investigators he had acted alone.

His DNA had matched forensic samples collected by investigators at the scene.

However, the interior minister said the investigation into the “political murder” would continue.

“I want to make clear that for us the investigation has not been completed,” Seehofer told reporters at the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. “We will work intensively to determine in which environment the suspected culprit operated lately and in recent years.”

FAR-RIGHT GROUPS

Seehofer said the government would hire more investigators to monitor the activities of far-right groups, especially on the internet.

Luebcke, who headed the regional government in the city of Kassel, was a hate figure on far-right internet forums critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome around a million refugees at the height of the refugee crisis.

The 2011 discovery of the NSU unleashed fierce criticism of the intelligence agencies and police for underestimating the risk of far-right violence. Reforms were then introduced, such as closer coordination between agencies and regions.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), of which Luebcke was a member, have said the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) must share blame for the Luebcke murder, saying it has legitimized a language of hate that encourages political violence.

The AfD has rejected suggestions that its anti-immigration stance was to blame for Luebcke’s death and said its members were the victims of left-wing violence.

Last year, Germany was shaken by violent far-right protests in the eastern town of Chemnitz after the killing of a Cuban-German citizen for which two immigrants were arrested. Soon after, the then-head of the BfV was ousted after he was accused of harboring right-wing sympathies.

Some AfD politicians were condemned for taking part in marches in the city after the murder organized by far-right fringe groups, some of whose members were seen performing the Nazi salute, which is illegal in Germany.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Gareth Jones

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