Cologne/Berlin (dpa) – Whether constitutional protection can target the AfD as a suspected right-wing extremist case will not become clear before federal elections.
The Administrative Court of Cologne announced on Thursday that due to the high complexity of the procedure and out of “respect for the voters’ decision”, no decision would be taken before September 26 in the urgency procedure that has been running since January.
The AfD had already approached the court in January as a precaution to avoid a possible classification as a suspicious case. For his part, the chairman of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, informed the constitutional protection officers of the states in an internal video conference that the party had been upgraded to a suspicious case. He didn’t announce anything publicly. When the information about the state authorities leaked to the public, the court prohibited the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution from disclosing or not disclosing the party’s classification, observation, treatment or investigation as a “suspicious case” before the emergency procedure were closed.
Decision on right-wing extremist “wings”
As the court announced on Thursday, a second urgent motion will not be decided until after the election, by which the party wants to ban the protection of the Constitution from specifying the number of supporters of the “wing” at about 7,000. The Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution has not observed the informal alliance, which it believes continues for several months, as a suspicious matter, but now as a “guaranteed right-wing extremist enterprise”. In a ruling last year, the Berlin Higher Administrative Court of Brandenburg saw no reason to object to this assessment of the “wing”‘s personal potential.
The basis for classifying the entire party as a suspicious matter sought by the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution is a comprehensive report on the AfD. Among other things, it addresses the question of how much influence the ‘wing’, which is labeled as far-right by the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution, has in the party. Thuringian AfD state chairman Björn Höcke founded the network in the summer of 2015. Last spring, the merger was formally dissolved under pressure from the federal government of the AfD.
Not a full observation for judgment
“The chamber intends to take decisions in the main proceedings and decide on the emergency procedure in the first quarter of 2022 after an oral hearing,” the Cologne Court announced. It was argued that, given the importance of the procedure, a “summary examination of the facts” was not sufficient.
This means that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution may not initially control the party as a whole with the help of intelligence services. This includes the use of so-called informants and other secret information gathering methods. Before the end of the proceedings, the authority is also not allowed to make public assessments of the AfD. However, this does not apply to the “wing” and to several state associations of the party, which are already controlled by the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution.
Haldenwang said in an interview with the German news agency last December: “Our legal mandate is also to inform the population about anti-constitutional efforts. That is one of the lessons from the Weimar Republic, which also failed because of its parties. We also need to be able to inform the public in the run-up to an election if we observe any anti-constitutional efforts of any kind.”
The AfD was pleased with the court’s new schedule. “The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution will remain prohibited from considering the AfD as a suspicious case until 2022 – we warmly welcome that,” said party chairman Jörg Meuthen. “Because such an unwarranted observation was expected to become public and cause massive damage to the AfD – especially during the election campaign.”
According to data from the dpa, the court had already proposed to those involved in June that, given the size of the files and because of the upcoming elections, they should now waive decisions in the emergency procedure and allow an oral hearing to take place. should proceed immediately with a hearing in the first quarter of 2022. According to reports, the AfD was in favour, constitutional protection refused.