German MP probed over Muslim 'gang-raping hordes' tweet
A prominent German MP is facing a criminal investigation over a tweet in which she described Muslims as "barbarian, gang-raping hordes".
Beatrix von Storch, of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), accused police in Cologne of seeking to "appease" Muslim migrants after they tweeted a new year message in Arabic.
"What the hell is going on in this country? Why is an official police site tweeting in Arabic? Are they trying to appease the barbarian, Muslim, gang-raping male hordes?" Ms von Storch wrote. Her account was subsequently suspended.
The politician is being investigated under Germany's strict hate speech laws and could face up to five years in prison if charged and found guilty.
Cologne police said its new year message contained a link to important public safety information and had been tweeted in several languages in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. In addition to German, it was tweeted in English, French and Arabic.
Ms von Storch's remarks were a reference to the Cologne new year sex attacks of two years ago, in which more than 500 women were sexually assaulted in the area around the cathedral and main railway station. The overwhelming majority of suspects in the assaults were migrants of North African origin.
The politician's Twitter account was temporarily suspended over her tweet. The controversy comes months after Germany introduced new laws under which social media sites face heavy fines if they do not remove posts that contain hate speech.
Ms von Storch later tried to post the same remarks on Facebook, but the social media site blocked the post.
The AfD became the first nationalist party to sit in the German parliament since the 1960s last year after winning 92 seats in September's elections.
Cologne police said the investigation against Ms von Storch was standard procedure where hate speech was suspected.
"This is a normal procedure and nothing special," said Thomas Held, a police spokesman.
"If we suspect a criminal offence, we are legally obliged to investigate."
He defended the police's decision to post its new year tweet in several languages.
"Our intention is to reach people," he said.
"Some people are wondering about it, but for us it's a normal way to spread information."