Hans-Georg Maaen to leave BfV intelligence agency for role at interior ministry
Germanys domestic intelligence chief has been forced to step down after he provoked controversy by questioning the authenticity of video footage showing far-right protesters in Chemnitz chasing down migrants and appearing to downplay the violence.
The removal of Hans-Georg Maaen, the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), followed more than a week of political clashes that revealed deep fissures in Angela Merkels coalition.
After an extended crisis meeting between party leaders on Tuesday afternoon, a statement from the German government said Maaen would be taking up a new role as senior official in the interior ministry. His successor at the BfV has not yet been announced.
Calls for Maaen to quit had abounded after he questioned the authenticity of video footage from Chemnitz in comments to the tabloid Bild and expressed doubts that the migrants were chased down. It directly contradicted Merkels description of a far-right protest in the eastern town, who said they very clearly revealed hate. Her spokesman referred to the scenes as a Hetzjagd, or hounding of migrants.
The remarks also chimed with comments by the anti-immigrant AfDs co-leader, Alexander Gauland, who accused Merkel of spreading fake news on Chemnitz.
Her coalition partners had taken opposite views on Maaen. The truculent interior minister, Horst Seehofer, who heads the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU), had thrown his weight behind Maaen, while the leftwing Social Democrats (SPD), were determined to get rid of him.
The decision to offer him a new job represents a way of saving face for those in the three-way meeting.
Mr Maaen will become state secretary in the federal ministry of the interior in the future, the statement said. Interior minister Horst Seehofer values his competence in matters of public security, but Mr Maaen will not be responsible for the supervision of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the ministry.
German media pointed out that he is effectively being promoted: as state secretary, he will belong to a pay higher grade.
The news sparked outrage among opposition politicians. The leader of the Green party, Katrin Gring-Eckardt, described the development as unbelievable and criticised the coalition for rewarding disloyal behaviour and cuddling with the AfD.