Court halts German far-right figure’s expulsion from party

International

FILE – In this Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 file photo, Andreas Kalbitz, top candidate of Saxony’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, attends a press conference in Berlin, Germany, one day after the federal state elections in the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg. The far-right Alternative for Germany party has expelled one of its regional leaders for failing to disclose his ties to extremist groups. Senior party officials voted Friday, May 15, 2020 to void the membership of Andreas Kalbitz, its chief in the eastern state of Brandenburg. The party is under pressure to distance itself from extremists in its midst, after coming under growing scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Kalbitz was photographed in 2007 at an event hosted by the HDJ, a neo-Nazi youth movement that’s since been banned. The 47-year-old told German news agency dpa that he will take legal steps against the party’s decision. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

BERLIN (AP) — A prominent regional leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany on Friday won a court injunction against his expulsion from the party.

The national leadership of Alternative for Germany, or AfD, last month voted to void the membership of Andreas Kalbitz, its chief in the eastern state of Brandenburg, for failing to disclose his ties to extremist groups. Kalbitz vowed to fight the decision, which is hotly disputed inside the party.

The Berlin state court ruled that the cancelation of Kalbitz’s membership was inadmissible, news agency dpa reported. That means Kalbitz can continue to exercise his rights as a party member and a member of its national leadership until an AfD arbitration committee rules on the matter.

The party is under pressure to distance itself from extremists in its midst after coming under growing scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Earlier this week, intelligence officials in Brandenburg put AfD’s branch there under observation.

Kalbitz has a long history of involvement in groups that promote a revisionist interpretation of Germany’s war-time history and was photographed in 2007 at an event hosted by the HDJ, a neo-Nazi youth movement that has since been banned.

AfD came third in the country’s 2017 national election but has recently lost ground in opinion polls.

Much of AfD’s branch in Brandenburg is standing behind Kalbitz, one of the leading figures on the party’s right wing. He has remained a member of the party’s caucus in the regional parliament.

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