Connect with us


Four teenagers investigated over attack on German MEP



Four German teenagers are being investigated over a violent attack on a German politician that left him hospitalised with serious injuries, triggering a nationwide debate as to how to deal with a sharp rise in aggression towards people in public office.

Police said on Monday they had identified three suspects after a 17-year-old turned himself in to police on Sunday, admitting his involvement in the attack on Matthias Ecke, a member of the European parliament for the Social Democrats, and its main candidate for the 7 June election.

Ecke, 41, was kicked and beaten to the ground on Friday evening as he put up bill posters for the SPD, the party of the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in the eastern city of Dresden, capital of the state of Saxony.

His cheekbone and eye socket were broken in the attack. On Sunday, he was operated on and the SPD’s leader in Saxony, Henning Homann, said Ecke was “doing well under the circumstances”.

People hold a banner that reads ’Nazis kill’ as they protest against recent violence against politicians and election campaign volunteers in Dresden. Photograph: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Two of the suspects have been identified by their first names and first initial of their surname, as is common practice in Germany, as Quentin J, 17, who appeared at a police station in southern Dresden on Sunday accompanied by his mother, and Leander H, also 17.

On Sunday evening, Leander H was confronted with a search warrant by police at his home in the east of the city. All four addresses where the youths lived were searched by police, who gathered evidence at the scene as well as removing objects from the homes.

In a statement, the state prosecutor, Sabine Wylegalla, said: “The four accused are young men of German nationality aged 17 and 18 respectively. The investigation is ongoing and will take some time.”

Thousands of people on Sunday took to the streets of several German cities, most notably Dresden and Berlin, to condemn the violent attack, amid an increase in the number of assaults on politicians in recent months, and a doubling of attacks since the 2019 European parliament elections, according to government data.

The attack has been roundly condemned by politicians across the political divide in Germany and the EU amid demands for an increase in both security for politicians and harsher penalties for perpetrators of attacks.

SPD volunteers put up an election poster for MEPs Matthias Ecke and Katarina Barley in Dresden. The poster says ‘Germany’s strongest votes for Europe.’ Photograph: Matthias Rietschel/Reuters

The motive for the attack remains unclear. None of the teenagers has so far spoken, according to police, who have said they are being investigated for grievous bodily harm. It has been widely reported that they had been drunk at the time of the attack.

As all four suspects are registered at a permanent address, they are not being taken into custody, although investigators said this could change once further circumstances were determined.

Speaking on Saturday, Nancy Faeser, the federal interior minister, blamed the far right for stoking a climate of violence with hate-filled rhetoric, including on social media.

She pledged to take “tough action and further preventative and protective measures”, adding that a greater visible police presence was required on the ground at political events.

“We need more police presence on the ground, to protect democratic politicians at campaign stands and events,” she told the Rheinische Post in an interview.

Other politicians, including Markus Söder, the head of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, specifically pointed the finger of blame at the far-right populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has been rising in the polls for the past year.

The co-chair of the Social Democrats, Saskia Esken, warned against playing down the attack on Ecke as a one-off act of wayward youths.

People demonstrate at a rally in Dresden protesting against the attack on the MEP Matthias Ecke. Photograph: Matthias Rietschel/Reuters

“It is very clear that this willingness to use violence hasn’t come out of nowhere,” Esken said at a solidarity rally on Sunday at the SPD state headquarters in Dresden. “This has to do with the seeds of social division and messages of contempt for democracy that come from the AfD and other rightwing extremists.

“In this regard, these people who have threatened to hunt us down, to clean up and even to clear out this country, also share responsibility for the social climate in which such acts are possible,” she said, calling on wider society, as well as political parties, to condemn the attack.

The AfD’s co-leader Alice Weidel condemned as “vile and irresponsible” what she said were attempts to exploit the attack on Ecke for political gain, saying that AfD politicians and party members were frequently attacked.

In Dresden and Berlin, participants at rallies held up placards reading: “No space for hate” and “Our democracy will not be intimidated.”

Continue Reading