German police officers suspended over neo-Nazi chat groups
Dozens of officers suspected of sharing offensive images including one of refugee in gas chamber
Police in Germany have raided the homes and workplaces of fellow officers over their links to a far-right chat groups.
Twenty-nine officers have been suspended from the police force in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia over the private chat groups, in which images of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and a refugee in a gas chamber were shared.
The Interior Minister of the western state, Herbert Reul, said the 126 images shared across five WhatsApp chat groups on private phones between 2013 and 2015 were "the worst” and “obnoxious".
"Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis have no place in the North Rhine-Westphalian police force, in our police force," Mr Reul said.
"At first I did not want to believe that there really was such a thing."
Frank Richter, Essen's regional police chief, said the episode was particularly shocking because no officer reported the offensive material to their superiors, Deutche Welle TV reported.
None of the accused officers had seemed in any way suspicious.
All 29 are being investigated and 14 are likely to lose their jobs because of their involvement in the WhatsApp groups, Mr Reul said.
Eleven of those involved in distributing the material face criminal prosecution under Germany’s incitement laws. The rest could face disciplinary action.
Germany’s security services have been dogged by suspicions of far-right infiltration in recent years.
At least 40 cases of far-right extremism among police were being investigated, German media reported in August.
In July, an elite unit of Germany’s Special Commando Forces was formally disbanded after some of its members were found to hold extremist views.
Police seized weapons, explosives and ammunition during a raid on the private property of a commando sergeant major in the eastern state of Saxony.
Investigators uncovered 2 kilograms of plastic explosives and an AK-47, an SS songbook and other items of Nazi memorabilia.
Military counter-intelligence in Germany has investigated about 600 troops feared to be involved in far-right extremism.
Updated: September 17, 2020 11:32 PM