German police arrest man with right-wing links over death threats

BERLIN – German police have arrested a 53-year-old man with a history of supporting the far right in a series of death threats against well-known progressives, including a lawyer, politician and comedian authorities said on Tuesday.

The threats typically included information known only to authorities, such as the names of the targets’ children or their homes, initially leading investigators to suspect police officers were involved and adding to concerns about the growing influence of far-right extremists in the ranks of the police.

Peter Beuth, Minister of the Interior of the central state of Hesse, where most of the victims lived, told reporters on Tuesday: “The threatening letters raised very serious suspicions about the police. But, he added, “From all we know today, no Hessian policeman has ever been responsible.”

Authorities said on Tuesday that the suspect, who has not been publicly identified under German privacy laws, had never worked as a police officer. Many notes were signed “NSU 2.0”, a reference to a far-right terrorist group who killed 10 people, planted bombs and committed robberies for more than a decade, starting in 1999.

Authorities in Hesse said the death threats started in 2018 and were directed mainly to women known for their work on behalf of migrants.

The suspect was detained in Berlin at the request of the Hessian authorities as part of an investigation which began in 2019.

The man has a criminal record that includes unspecified right-wing crimes, according to Hessian state authorities. Several media reported that he obtained at least some of the personal information by contacting public registers and demanding access while posing as a police officer.

The threat campaign has also inspired imitators. Last summer, a former Bavarian police officer and his wife were arrested for sending letters of similar threats.

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