Dresden, Germany (dpa) – Germany’s anti-foreigner Pegida movement was rocked Tuesday by a fresh scandal with a speaker under investigation for incitement after he lamented the closure of concentration camps at a rally organized by the group.
“We are investigating the case on suspicion of incitement to hatred,” said Dresden state prosecutor Lawrence Haase on Tuesday. “We are checking the criminal relevance,” Haase said.
In a speech to a Pegida rally on Monday in the eastern German city of Dresden marking the anti-Islam and anti-foreigner movement’s first anniversary, German-Turkish writer Akif Pirincci lashed out at both Muslims and refugees.
“Of course, there are other alternatives, but the concentration camps are unfortunately out of service,” Pirincci told the rally of between 15,000 and 20,000 people organized by Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.
Pegida almost disappeared from German political life earlier this year amid a series of scandals and a mass resignations by its key leaders.
But the group has suddenly been given a new lease of life as a result of the surge in the number of refugees into Germany from war-torn parts of the world such as the Middle East and Africa.
Pirincci’s speech, however, appeared to be too much even for Pegida supporters with the movement’s co-founder Lutz Bachmann apologizing for Pirincci’s remarks on his Facebook page.
Inviting Pirincci to appear at the Pegida rally was a “serious error,” wrote Bachmann, who turned off the microphone during Pirincci’s speech, which seemed to shock some of those attending the event.
A crime and murder-mystery writer, Pirincci has emerged in Germany as a regular critic of migration, gays and Islam.
Born in Turkey, Pirincci in his speech also compared Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy with the forced resettlements carried out during Hitler’s Germany. Pirincci emigrated to Germany with his family in 1969 at the age of 10.
His speech resulted in the publisher Random House pulling his books from their programme.
Pirincci’s speech came amid warnings from analysts and political leaders of the recent radicalization of Pegida as a result of Merkel’s liberal asylum policy.
After calling for dialogue with Pegida supporters in the early months after it appeared on the national political stage, Germans have more recently set about attacking the organization, describing it as a Nazi group that people should avoid.
“Pegida has become right-wing populist and is open in part to outraged radical right-wing movements,” German Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Gabriel also at one point met with Pegida supporters in Dresden.
In his speech at Monday’s rally, Pirincci said today’s politicians were “increasingly like Gauleiters (regional Nazi Party leaders) acting against their own people,” adding that any Germans concerned about the current situation should leave the nation.