German interior minister backs embattled intelligence chief

BERLIN (Reuters) – Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday backed the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, who is under fire for comments in which he questioned the authenticity of a video showing rightist gangs hounding migrants.

Hans-Georg Maassen (L), President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer attend a parliamentary committee hearing of the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The row resulting from those comments has strained conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, with many of her Social Democrat partners questioning intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen’s suitability for the role.

But Seehofer, who leads Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party, told lawmakers he had confidence in Maassen, whom he described as an opponent of right radicalism.

“He gave a convincing explanation of his actions,” Seehofer said of Maassen’s appearance on Wednesday before the domestic affairs committee of the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

“He convincingly refuted several conspiracy theories and he took a persuasive stand against right radicalism,” he added.

Jeering and shouting could be heard from lawmakers as Seehofer mounted his defence of Maassen, whose questioning of the video’s authenticity was greeted with incredulity by some politicians and reporters on the scene.

Tensions have been running high in parts of eastern Germany since the death of a German man after an altercation with two Middle Eastern refugees, which led to weeks of marching and protests that were well attended by far-right groups.

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