"Pegizei" police scandal rocks Saxon state gov't in Germany

Source: Xinhua| 2018-08-25 00:37:48|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BERLIN, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Revelations of links between the Saxony state criminal police office and the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) movement in Germany have led to a crisis in the Saxon regional coalition government on Friday.

Speaking to the public broadcaster ARD, Social Democratic Party (SPD) deputy governor Martin Dulig blamed his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) coalition partner for ignoring the gradual spread of far-right political groups in Saxony and thus laying the foundations for what has become known as the "Pegizei" scandal in Germany. "Now we are paying the price for the omissions of the past decades," Dulig said.

"Pegizei" is a combination of the German word for police (Polizei) and the PEGIDA acronym. The term has been used to refer to the widely-publicized incident in the Saxon capital of Dresden in which local security authorities stand accused of having undermined constitutional press freedom during a recent PEGIDA demonstration against Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In video footage that has spread rapidly online, a protestor who was later identified as an active member of the Saxony state criminal police office can be seen hurling verbal abuse at a team of ZDF journalists filming the gathering. Rather than reigning in the aggressive PEGIDA supporter, however, police proceeded to inspect and temporarily detain the ZDF team over the course of nearly an hour while letting their off-duty colleague off the hook.

The resulting perception that regional security authorities were in cahoots with PEGIDA, a movement which was founded by a convicted drug dealer and burglar, has provoked widespread outrage in Germany. Ulrike Demmer, a spokesperson for the federal government, told the press on Friday that the state of Saxony would have to clarify the incident swiftly and take the necessary measures.

"We cannot simply look away when employees of state and security authorities abandon the basic rights of our liberal-democratic society," Demmer said.

Dulig similarly argued on Friday that the government staff member in question would have to face consequences for his actions. Dulig further proposed providing police in Saxony with clear notices for future deployments which remind them of their constitutional duty to support the work of journalists.

At the same time, however, the SPD politician cautioned national and international observers against drawing a premature conclusion about the supposedly right-leaning tendencies of his home state. "We cannot allow the entire state to be taken hostage by its right-wing inhabitants, this would be unfair in light of the diversity of people who live here," Dulig told ARD.

In the meantime, the Green party (Gruene) has urged the government to offer better constitutional training to police officers in Germany more generally. "As the holder of the monopoly of violence, the police should be able to recite all basic rights, including the freedom of the press, in their sleep," Green party interior spokesperson Valentin Lippmann argued.