German far-right party wins case against interior minister

Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer | Mika Schmidt/Pool photo via Getty Images

Court rules that Horst Seehofer breached neutrality rules by publishing critical interview on a ministry website.

Germany’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Interior Minister Horst Seehofer violated the rights of a far-right party by posting a critical interview on his ministry’s website.

In the interview published in September 2018, Seehofer accused the Alternative for Germany (AfD) of “undermining the state” and described the party’s verbal attacks against the German president as “highly dangerous for our state.”

“They stand against this state. Even if they say a thousand times they’re democrats,” Seehofer said in the interview.

In Tuesday’s judgment, the German Constitutional Court ruled that by publishing the interview on the interior ministry’s website, Seehofer had breached state neutrality rules and violated the AfD’s right of equal participation in the political process.

While his remarks as such are “constitutionally not objectionable,” the judges found that by publishing them on the ministry’s website, Seehofer “has made use of resources which are available to him solely on the basis of his government office and has used them to participate in the political campaign.”

This, they added, “violates the requirement of state neutrality and thus infringes the applicant’s right to participate in political competition on an equal footing.”

The court also ruled that the government is generally allowed to use official channels to defend itself against criticism, “but in doing so it must maintain the necessary objectivity” and avoid statements that “have no connection with the content of the criticism of the government’s actions.”

The decision is a symbolic victory for the AfD but has no direct consequences for Seehofer. The interior ministry deleted the interview from its website a few weeks after it had been published.

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