Far-right crime hits record high in Germany

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BERLIN, May 4 (Reuters) - Germany saw a big jump last year in politically motiviated crimes, and offences commited by far-right supporters hit a record high, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Tuesday.

Far-right offences were up nearly 6% from the previous year at 23,064, and accounted for more than half of all politically motivated crimes, the highest level since police started collecting such data in 2001.

Violent crimes classified as political in nature rose by nearly 20% year-on-year to 3,365 and included 11 murders and 13 attempted murders, Seehofer said.

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"These numbers are very alarming mainly because a trend has been established over the last few years," he said. "During the pandemic we observed a further polarisation of the political discussion."

Security is emerging as a key political issue ahead of a national election in September. German intelligence fears that far-right activists are trying to exploit public frustration over lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence against state institutions. read more

Recent politically motivated murders include the shooting of nine people in shisha bars by a racist gunman in the western city of Hanau and a knife attack by a Syrian man on a gay couple in Dresden in which one person was killed, Seehofer said.

German prosecutors said on Tuesday they had arrested a man accused of sending hate mail to public figures using the acronym of a neo-Nazi gang held responsible for murdering 10 people, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old suspect, who was arrested during a search of his apartment in Berlin, is accused of sending threats and hate messages over a three-year period to leftist national and regional politicians as well as to a Turkish-German lawyer who represented victims of far-right crimes.

The suspect signed his letters with the acronym "NSU 2.0," prosecutors said, a reference to the National Socialist Underground (NSU) group blamed for the killings of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

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Reporting by Joseph Nasr; editing by John Stonestreet

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