German prosecutors seek to lift immunity of nationalist lawmaker Frauke Petry
Prosecutors in the eastern German city of Dresden has asked to have nationalist lawmaker Frauke Petry's parliamentary immunity lifted. The office is reportedly looking to charge the AfD co-chair with perjury.
The parliament of the eastern German state of Saxony said on Monday that it would hold a hearing on whether to lift Petry's immunity after the request by public prosecutor's office in the state capital, Dresden.
Should the request be granted, it would clear the way for the prosecution to pursue criminal charges against Petry following a year-long investigation into alleged perjury.
The parliament's spokesman ruled out any decision being made before the summer break, saying it would come by the end of August at the earliest, he said. Petry will be invited to explain her view at the hearing.
The perjury accusations date back to 2014, when Petry and fellow AfD member Carsten Hütter are alleged to have provided contrasting accounts of AfD candidate's campaign finances ahead of the 2014 state election in Saxony.
In May 2016, the prosecution deemed that there was sufficient evidence to pursue a preliminary investigation into the matter.
As well as co-chairing the nationalist AfD, Petry is also the party's top regional lawmaker in Saxony.
AfD stands by Petry
"The request for Frauke Petry's immunity to be lifted has no impact on how we see the party's position," leading AfD member Alexander Gauland said. "She has our backing. There is a presumption of innocence."
The AfD is expected to enter the German Bundestag for the first time in September's federal election on a policy platform that speaks to anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment.
Last year, the party, which was founded just four years ago, realized high ratings of around 15 percent in the polls, having mobilized detractors of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy and the costs of the eurozone debt crisis.
Its support has sunk steadily since, however, as a number of AfD members have found themselves plagued by scandals. Current polls estimate the party to claim about 8 percent of the vote in September, a long way from the heights it enjoyed last year but still enough to surpass the minimum 5-percent threshold needed to enter the Bundestag.
dm/tj (dpa, Reuters, AFP)