BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s conservative interior minister has sparked a new row in the coalition government by giving a critical post to the ex-spy chief removed over his right-wing contacts and controversial remarks on anti-immigrant violence.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday that he would make ex-spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen an undersecretary responsible for security affairs at the ministry.
The contentious spy chief was removed from his post by the government on Tuesday, after coalition partner the Social Democratic Party insisted that he could no longer stay head of the domestic intelligence agency BfV, due to his recent comments on far-right unrest in Germany.
Interior Minister Seehofer, who also leads the Christian Social Union (CSU), a sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), dismissed criticisms by the Social Democrats on Wednesday, and praised Maassen for his achievements over the last four years.
“Mr. Maassen has had great successes in fight against terrorism, in the fight against left- and right-wing extremism (…) in developing our security cooperation with Israel, with the U.S., with Great Britain, and other countries,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Ralf Stegner, the SPD’s vice-chair, heavily criticized Seehofer for promoting Maassen to the position of undersecretary.
“We are really running out of patience with the grand coalition,” Stegner told Inforadio on Wednesday.
Maassen had sparked a debate in the country through his comments on the recent far-right unrest in eastern Germany and his dubious contacts with far-right politicians.
Despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s strong condemnation of the far-right violence in Chemnitz and her branding the incidents the “hunting down” of foreigners, Maassen claimed that there was no clear evidence showing that protestors had attacked migrants, and further argued that social media videos of such incidents could be propaganda by far-left groups.
On Tuesday, following nearly two-hour crisis talks between Merkel, Seehofer, and SPD leader Andrea Nahles, the government announced that Maassen would be removed from his post.
Merkel has not yet publicly commented on Maassen, but media reports claimed last week that she also backed his removal from the post, due to his frequent media appearances in recent weeks and his interference in daily politics.
Maassen, who served as the BfV's head since 2012, has been an outspoken critic of Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees.
In recent weeks he came under fire from the SPD for his contacts with senior politicians from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which touts an anti-immigration, anti-Islam platform.
The AfD and far-right groups had held anti-immigration rallies in eastern cities in recent weeks, following reports of murder and other crimes allegedly perpetrated by refugees.
During the protests, several mobs hunted down people deemed "foreign looking" on the streets and attacked restaurants owned by Jews or other migrants.