BERLIN (Reuters) – The outgoing head of the German secret service was dismissed on Monday for a speech behind closed doors condemning the "naive and left" government policy and suggesting that he consider going into politics.
FILE PHOTO: Hans-Georg Maassen, President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, participates in an interview with Reuters on January 30, 2018 in Berlin. Photo from January 30, 2018. REUTERS / Axel Schmidt / File Photo
The remarks by Hans-Georg Maassen, first reported by the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung, threatened to open a cleavage about Maasen's alleged extreme right-wing sympathies, which had just bundled Germany's fragmented coalition government.
"I have asked the President to bring the head of the State Security Service into early retirement," said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the reporters, adding that Maassen's speech "made a trusting relationship impossible."
Seehofer had saved Maassen from release in September when the internal spy movement questioned the authenticity of videos in which far-right nationalists in the eastern city of Chemnitz chased after immigrants.
In a closed speech to other European domestic spy chiefs Maassen compared the videos with Russian propaganda and presented himself as a victim of a witch hunt by "left-wing forces" in the SPD, the junior partner in the conservative coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"I am seen in Germany as a critic of idealistic, naive and left foreign and security policy. I can imagine life outside the public service, for example in politics or business, "Maasen said in his speech.
Even before his recent statements came, many SPD members and other opposition parties had felt before the official because they considered him right-wing extremist tendencies.
The party for the far-right alternative for Germany (AFD) said she would be happy to work with Maassen. "I have great respect for Mr. Maassen," said AfD President Jörg Meuthen on Monday to RND newspapers. "If he wanted to join us, he would be very welcome."
The security agency Maasen monitors the extremist threats of the German constitutional order.
The Social Democrats welcomed his release. "It was long overdue," said SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil in a statement. "He just gave another hint of his inclination to right-wing conspiracy theories."
Many right-wing extremists in Germany shy away from Merkel's liberal immigration policy supported by the SPD. Since the migration crisis in 2015, Germany has admitted about one million predominantly Muslim asylum seekers.
While Maasens speech was given in private language, his text was later uploaded to the security intranet site, where thousands of listeners came close to causing a leak to the general public.
Seehofer said he had previously supported Maassen because he wanted to campaign for a subordinate who had quickly apologized for poorly commented comments on the Chemnitz video in an interview with the best-selling tabloid Bild.
His quick action to shoot Maasen, however, also highlighted to what extent Seehofer was weakened by the catastrophic performance of his Christian Social Union party in the Bavarian state elections last month. Many asked him to resign.
The allegations about Maasen followed in important state elections in recent months in the state elections of Merkel both the CSD and the SPD. The poor results prompted Merkel to step down as head of the CDU center-right, and many are calling for their loveless "grand coalition" to come to an end.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Cut by Mark Heinrich