News from Berlin and Germany: 6 March 2021

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany


Compiled by Tom Wills



Strong start to housing expropriation campaign

It will take 170,000 signatures to force the question of expropriating Berlin’s biggest landlords onto the ballot paper. But with activists in Neukölln managing to collect 10,000 names in the space of 3 days, this goal appears within reach. Last weekend there were 400 to 500 teams collecting signatures in every part of the city, spokesperson Michael Prütz told Junge Welt. Despite this strong start, he emphasised that collecting the signatures needed within the four-month official deadline remained a big challenge. Source: Junge Welt

Call for halt to racist ticket inspectors

Over 25,000 people have signed a petition calling on the operator of the Berlin U-Bahn to tackle discrimination and violence perpetrated by its ticket inspectors. The petition ‘BVGWeilWirUnsFürchten’ (‘BVG because we are scared’ – a play on the BVG’s marketing slogan of ‘becuase we love you’) describes cases of discrimination on grounds of race, gender, social status and age, including a brutal assault on a man who had done nothing except travel without a ticket for his bicycle. The victim, Dr Abbéy, was left with a broken shoulder, a broken collar bone, two broken ribs and a lung contusion after being set upon by three ticket inspectors on the U5 in December. The petition calls for investigations into the attacks and compulsory training for inspectors. Source: nd

Public sector workers face extremism screening

Brandenburg’s conservative-green coalition government plans to root out extremists from public sector jobs by running checks to see if they are known to the domestic intelligence agency. The scheme was set out by interior minister Michael Stübgen (CDU) on Tuesday. Although it comes in response to cross-party calls to tackle far-right extremism, the left fears the law could be used more widely, bringing back memories of the ban on leftists in the civil service in the 1970s. Under the German government’s Radikalenerlass (‘radicals decree’), 3.5 million people were screened, mainly to identify members of the communist party and SDS, the socialist student organisation. As a result 1,250 teachers and university lecturers were blocked from getting jobs, and about 260 employees were fired. Source: nd


Skepticism over state surveillance of far-right

Media reports on Wednesday revealed that the Verfassungschutz domestic secret service had designated the far-right AfD party as a ‘suspected’ extremist organisation. The decision would pave the way for state surveillance of party members and elected officials. The Die Linke politician Jan Korte was one of those giving a lukewarm reaction to the news: “You don’t need the Verfassungsschutz to realise that the AfD has a right-wing extremism problem,” he was quoted by ND as saying. Jan Schalauske, a party member in Hessen, highlighted recent revelations about potential connections with the far-right within the ranks of the Verfassungsschutz itself. The agency carries protection of the constitution in its name, but doesn’t actually put it into practice, said Schalauske. The AfD has been fighting the Verfassungsschutz in court for some time. On Friday, judges in Cologne put the latest decision on ice, saying the leaking of the news to the media put the party at an unfair disadvantage ahead of this Autumn’s elections. Source: nd 1 / 2

Morocco shuns ambassador in Western Sahara row

The Moroccan government has banned all official contact with Germany. In a letter published by local media on Monday, civil servants were told to cut off communication with the German embassy and connected organisations. Although the reason for the decision was not made clear, it is assumed to relate to Germany’s position on Western Sahara. At the end of last year, Donald Trump acknowledged what he said was the territorial sovereignty of Morocco over the occupied region, apparently rewarding the country for its willingness to resume diplomatic relations with Israel. In response, Germany criticised Trump’s position and called a session of the UN Security Council. The Polisario Front has been fighting for autonomy for the region and an independence referendum has been supposed to take place ever since a ceasefire agreed in 1991. Source: nd

Germany puts Syrian rebels on trial for war crimes

Two men have appeared in court in Düsseldorf charged with committing war crimes in Syria in 2012. One of the pair is said to have executed a Syrian army officer who they were holding as a prisoner, while the other filmed the killing for propaganda purposes. The men have been in German custody since their arrest in July last year. As well as the war crime charge, they are accused of supporting or belonging to the Nusra front, which is banned as a terrorist organisation. The trial comes shortly after the conviction in Koblenz of a former member of the Syrian secret police for crimes against humanity, which was said to be the first time a court outside Syria had ruled on state-sponsored torture by the Assad regime. Source: AFP

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