German official slams police tolerance of hate speech

BERLIN (AP) — A senior official in Saxony has criticized police for failing to act against hate speech in the east German state, a stronghold of both the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement and the anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany.

Martin Dulig, Saxony’s deputy governor, said in an interview published Thursday that police should step in when speakers use podiums at political rallies to incite hatred.

“I sometimes ask myself, too, whether there’s greater sympathy for PEGIDA and AfD (Alternative for Germany) among the police in Saxony than among the average population,” he told German weekly Die Zeit.

The comments prompted a sharp response from Saxony’s top security official, Markus Ulbig, a member of the conservative Christian Democrats who govern the state with Dulig’s center-left Social Democrats.

“Our police are doing successful work, particularly when it comes to solving extremist crimes,” said Ulbig, the state’s interior minister. More than 70 percent of the nearly 900 cases of extremist crime over the past three years had been solved, he said.

Saxony — the birthplace of PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West — has seen a sharp rise in far-right attacks against migrants over the past year.

In the fourth quarter of 2015 there were 50 attacks against migrant homes in the state, compared with 15 in the same three-month period of 2014. The number of migrants coming to Germany has also increased sharply over the past year.

Dulig suggested police leadership in the state was partly to blame, citing a recent incident in the town of Clausnitz, where a mob blocked a bus carrying migrants and shouted “Go home!”

No protesters were arrested and a local police chief told reporters that the migrants were partly to blame for the incident.