German nationalist leader Frauke Petry could lose immunity

By The Canadian Press
August 17, 2017 - 3:00am

BERLIN — German nationalist leader Frauke Petry could face prosecution over allegations she lied under oath, after a parliamentary panel in the eastern state of Saxony recommended Thursday that her immunity should be lifted.

Petry's Alternative for Germany party has campaigned heavily against immigration and is expected to enter the federal parliament for the first time in next month's German elections.

Unless further objections are raised by Saxony's state parliament, Petry's immunity will be lifted next week. The 42-year-old has herself requested the move, saying she wants to clear her name.

The investigation centres on differing accounts given by Petry, currently a lawmaker in Saxony, and another party official to a state legislature committee in relation to a candidate list for a 2014 regional election.

Separately Thursday, German media reported that a prominent member of the party — known by its acronym AfD — had ties to a suspected Russian agent.

Hamburg weekly Die Zeit reported that Markus Frohnmaier, a leader of the party's youth wing, helped register a pro-Russian think-tank called European Center for Geopolitical Analysis together with Polish citizen Mateusz Piskorski.

Piskorski was detained in Poland in May 2016 on allegations of spying for Russia and remains under temporary arrest. Piskorski's arrest prompted outrage in Moscow, where he had been a regular guest invited to speak in Russian state-owned media about the danger of nationalism in Ukraine.

Rafal Pankowski, the head of the Polish anti-racism organization Never Again, described Piskorski as "one of the most active and most extreme neo-Nazis in Poland."

Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters WDR and NDR cited a confidential German intelligence report describing Piskorski as a Russian agent paid to influence public opinion about Russia in Europe, including by organizing trips for European lawmakers to observe the 2014 independence referendum in Crimea. The referendum, which was dismissed as a sham by Ukraine and the international community, resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

A spokesman for Alternative for Germany said the reported ties between Frohnmaier and a Russian agent were "nonsense."

"We try to communicate with all important nations," Christian Lueth told The Associated Press. "Naturally there are no contacts to intelligence agencies."

German authorities have warned that Russia might try to destabilize the country by influencing the Sept. 24 general election.

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Monika Scislowska and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

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Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:17:06 -0400

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