German spymaster to be frozen out of government role after political comments

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Germany’s outgoing domestic intelligence chief will not be given a new government job after lashing out at one of the governing parties, the interior minister has said.

It was a late twist to a saga that has contributed to the administration’s unpopularity.

The centre-left Social Democrats, part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, demanded Hans-Georg Maassen’s removal from the BfV spy agency in September after he appeared to play down far-right violence against migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz.

Germany Secret Service
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (Michael Sohn/AP)

Its leaders first agreed to make Mr Maassen a deputy interior minister, technically a promotion with a pay rise, but renegotiated the deal in the face of a backlash.

They then agreed to make him a “special adviser” to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

On Monday, Mr Seehofer said that he was sending the 55-year-old Mr Maassen into early retirement instead.

Germany Merkel
The row has caused problems for Chancellor Angela Merkel (Michael Sohn/AP)

Mr Seehofer said that Thomas Haldenwang, Mr Maassen’s deputy at the BfV, will take on Mr Maassen’s duties until there is a decision on a permanent successor.

German media reported that, in the manuscript of a farewell speech to European counterparts in mid-October, Mr Maassen alleged that “radical left-wing forces” in the Social Democrats wanted to use his comments as an excuse to end a governing coalition they never wanted to join.

Germany Far Right
Flowers and candles are placed on a pavement in Chemnitz, Germany where a German was killed allegedly by refugees (Jan Woitas/AP)

Mr Seehofer said those remarks “crossed a line”.

Mr Seehofer, the leader of the conservative Christian Social Union party, had previously defended Mr Maassen.

He said he heard about the speech on Friday and was “personally disappointed”.

The saga started with Mr Maassen’s response to violent right-wing protests following the killing of a German man, allegedly by migrants, in Chemnitz.

Mr Maassen said his agency had no reliable evidence that foreigners had been “hunted” down in the streets, a term Mrs Merkel had used.

A video posted by a left-wing group showed protesters chasing down and attacking a foreigner, but Mr Maassen questioned its authenticity.

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