'Alarming' rise in far-Right weapons seizures prompts Germany to beef up police powers

'Alarming' rise in far-Right weapons seizures prompts Germany to beef up police powersThe German government says it will respond to an “alarming” rise in weapons seizures during raids on far-Right extremists by handing police more powers to fight radicalism. Close to 1,100 weapons were confiscated in the course of investigations into Right-wing crime in 2018, marking a 61 per cent rise on the previous year when 676 weapons were found, new statistics show. Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, said the figures represent an “alarming increase” but also show that “our investigations are having an impact and authorities are keeping a close eye on the scene." Mr Seehofer, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union party, said police capabilities would be beefed up in response. "I am determined to strengthen the security services both in personnel and in structure and to give them the necessary legal tools to cope with this threat," he stated. A veteran law-and-order man, Mr Seehofer has previously faced criticism from civil liberties groups for introducing sweeping police powers in his native Bavaria which included abolishing time limits on police detentions. The weapons listed as being seized during raids last year included hand guns, rifles and knives, as well as pepper spray, fireworks and "dangerous tools". No detailed breakdown of the numbers of each type of weapon has yet been released. German police have in the past faced criticism for using a loose definition of what constitutes a weapon. Raids on the radical Left in recent years have led to confiscations of bricks and household implements as police sought to up political pressure on Berlin’s militant squatter scene. Matthias Quent, an extremism expert at the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society, told ARD that the new figures showed the far-Right are "massively arming themselves".  "Their aim is to intimidate society and drive out ethnic minorities. Parts of the scene even want a civil war," Mr Quent said. Coming just months after the murder of a politician from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats by a suspected far-right fanatic, the news adds to concern about rising militancy. Walter Lübcke, mayor of Kassel, was shot at point blank range outside his house in June. Weeks later police arrested Stephan Ernst, a man with a long history of involvement in the neo-Nazi scene.  In the course of investigations, police found 46 guns at Mr Ernst’s home and place of work. While it is still unclear how many of the weapons were held legally, investigators have reportedly told the home affairs committee that they were “hidden professionally”.



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