EU Parliament revokes immunity for ex-AfD head

Jörg Meuthen, the former co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has lost his delegate immunity in the European Parliament following a vote by fellow lawmakers, the EU announced on Tuesday.

There is now nothing standing in the way of a criminal investigation into claims that Meuthen illegally accepted money to fund an AfD election campaign in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 2016.

The lawmaker, who stepped down from his role as AfD co-chair in January after over six years in the job, claimed he had also voted to remove his own immunity.

“I already vowed to cooperate fully and unconditionally with the Berlin public prosecutor’s office early last year,” he said.

What are the allegations against Meuthen?

The German lawmaker has been accused of trying to cover up an illegal party donation of around €90,000 ($102,000) from a Swiss PR company. It is illegal for German parties to receive funds from outside of the EU.

Meuthen, who was the speaker for the far-right AfD in the Bundestag at the time, failed to “clearly disclose” the origin of the money in the party’s accounts report for the year 2016, according to an EU report.

Germany: AfD party leaders — lurching further to the far right Bernd Lucke (2013 – 2015) In 2013 the economist co-founded the Alternative for Germany (AfD) as a euroskeptic party that he went on to represent in the European Parliament in 2014. He left the AfD in 2015 after losing a power struggle against its more xenophobic wing.

Germany: AfD party leaders — lurching further to the far right Konrad Adam (2013-2015) Konrad Adam, born 1942 in the western city of Wuppertal, is a German journalist and publicist. He was a member of the conservative CDU before becoming a founding member of the AfD. He left the party in 2021, blaming his longtime colleague Alexander Gauland for what he called the AfD’s “tragic” development into a far-right party.

Germany: AfD party leaders — lurching further to the far right Frauke Petry (2013 – 2017) A chemist by training, Frauke Petry (*1975) began her career as a businesswoman before overcoming Bernd Lucke in an internal power struggle in 2015. But she left the party after another leadership battle in 2017. Petry is known for her anti-Islam views and made headlines in 2016 for saying that German police should “use firearms if necessary” to prevent illegal border crossings.

Germany: AfD party leaders — lurching further to the far right Jörg Meuthen (2015 – 2022) The economics professor, born in 1961, joined the AfD because of its euroskeptic positions. A nationalist conservative at heart, his rhetoric has been marked by xenophobia against migrants and Muslims. But he tried for years to push back against far-right extremists in the AfD — a struggle he lost. He resigned and left the party in January 2022, dogged by a donations scandal.

Germany: AfD party leaders — lurching further to the far right Alexander Gauland (2017-2019) The former CDU member, born in 1941, is most notorious for a speech he made to the AfD’s youth wing in June 2018: Acknowledging Germany’s responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi era, he went on to say Germany had a “glorious history and one that lasted a lot longer than those damned 12 years. Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history.”

Germany: AfD party leaders — lurching further to the far right Tino Chrupalla (2019 – present) Tino Chrupalla, born in 1975 in eastern Germany, joined the AfD in 2015, attracted to its anti-immigration platform. The trained painter and decorator from Saxony has been an MP since 2017 and backs the far-right wing of the party, though he urges more moderate language. Author: Rina Goldenberg

According to an investigation by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, the donation was made to appear as if it was coming from several legal donors who in fact did not exist.

Spiegel also suggested that the original donor is a Swiss property billionaire.

The party has already been fined €269,400 for the acceptance of donations from anonymous sources.

Public prosecutors in Berlin have followed up on their initial suspicions of illegal activity by Meuthen, and with the lifting of his immunity can now move ahead with formal investigations.

Meuthen and the AfD

The former leader of the far-right party said his departure from the party in January was down to its continuous lurch to the right.

Meuthen had represented the more moderate wing of the party, but membership has increasingly centered around the more extreme-right wing under the leadership of Björn Höcke.

Meuthen denied claims that his resignation had anything to do with the investigation, a theory put forward by his once co-leader Alice Weidel.

Meuthen has previously stated he believes the investigation into the illegal donation will clear his name.

Watch video 02:54 Far-right AfD still holds wide appeal in east

ab/dj (dpa, AFP)