Germany removes spymaster from his post over far-right violence row

Merkel To Fire Domestic Intelligence Chief Who Questioned Chemnitz ‘Migrant Hunt’ Narrative		Carsten Koall  Getty 18 Sep 2018

Merkel To Fire Domestic Intelligence Chief Who Questioned Chemnitz ‘Migrant Hunt’ Narrative Carsten Koall Getty 18 Sep 2018

Angela Merkel's government on Tuesday removed domestic spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen from office, transferring him to a different post to end an explosive row over immigration and the far right that once more rocked the German chancellor's fragile coalition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hans-Georg Maassen, the president of Germany's domestic security agency, in Cologne, Germany, on October 31, 2014.

Hans-Georg Maassen will become a senior official at the interior ministry once he leaves the BfV agency, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mrs Merkel's junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, had demanded Mr Maassen be removed, while the controversial conservative interior minister Horst Seehofer - now his direct boss - backed him.

Leading opposition figures were scathing about how Mrs Merkel dealt with Mr Maassen.

"Interior minister Horst Seehofer has high regard for Mr Maassen's abilities on questions of domestic security, but he will not be responsible for the BfV within the ministry".

The deal allows each of the three parties to claim it got what it wanted.

In office since 2012, Maassen has also been criticized for alleged improper contacts with members of the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany, which he denies.

"Maassen is no longer the top spy".

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Dietmar Bartsch, head of the far-left Die Linke, said: "That he has in practice been promoted and that the SPD supports this, is a farce".

"The so-called agreement on Maassen is a joke", Florian Post, an SPD lawmaker in the Bavarian regional assembly, told the RND newspaper group.

Maassen's decision to openly contradict Merkel in an interview with the mass-circulation daily Bild this month appears to have sealed his fate.

The far-right attacks in Chemnitz, which caused revulsion in Germany, were triggered by the fatal stabbing of a man over which police are holding a Syrian suspect and searching for an Iraqi man.

Seehofer has regularly sparred with his conservative ally Merkel on migration since 2015, when he was one of the most prominent critics of her decision to keep open Germany's borders as hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers trekked across the Balkans.

Maassen, 55, became the centre of a heated controversy after he raised doubts about the veracity of reports of far-right hooligans and neo-Nazis randomly attacking immigrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz in late August.

That decision has also been blamed for fueling the rise of the AfD, which became the largest opposition party after an election a year ago that weakened both Merkel's conservatives and the SPD.

On Tuesday the AfD said removing Maassen as head of the BfV agency posed a threat to national security.

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