German officials decry nationalist's anti-Turkish speech

In this Feb. 14, 2018 photo Andre Poggenburg, head of the nationalist AfD in German state of Saxony-Anhalt, speaks during a party rally in Nentmannsdorf near Pirna, eastern Germany, where he insulted Turks as “camel drivers” and defamed immigrants with dual passports as “homeless mob that we no longer want to have here." (Sebastian Kahnert/dpa via AP)

BERLIN — Top German officials and the head of a Turkish immigrant group on Thursday sharply condemned a speech by a prominent member of Germany's nationalist party who insulted Turks as "camel drivers" and immigrants with dual passports as a "homeless mob we no longer want to have."

Gokay Sofuoglu from the Turkish Community in Germany said the group's legal team is preparing charges based on discrimination and incitement against Andre Poggenburg, a regional leader of the anti-Muslim Alternative for Germany party, or AfD.

"It's high time Germans realize the danger coming from the far-right," Sofuoglu told The Associated Press. "Far-right populism in Germany keeps growing and we have to deal with it now."

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas also condemned the speech and defended the country's 4 million-strong Turkish immigrant community.

"Whoever discriminates against people based on their origins or heritage has to face the accusation of being a racist," Maas told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group.

He added the vast majority of dual citizens in Germany are "obviously standing more determinedly behind the country's basic law than the so-called patriots of the AfD."

Germany's commissioner for immigrant integration, Aydan Ozoguz, said Poggenburg's speech was trying "to berate parts of the population and incite hatred."

Poggenburg spoke Wednesday night in front of hundreds of supporters in Nentmannsdorf in Saxony. Supporter shouted "Deportation! Deportation!" as Poggenburg used vulgar expressions about Turkish immigrants.

AfD politicians were elected to Germany's parliament for the first time in the nation's September vote, 92 in all. Leaders of the party have repeatedly made headlines with insulting remarks about Germany's Muslim community.

Lawmaker Beatrix von Storch ran into trouble last month over her response to a Cologne police tweet offering New Year greetings in Arabic. Referring to the police tweet, she wrote on Twitter "Do they think they will calm the barbaric, Muslim, group-raping hordes of men this way?"

Von Storch's Twitter account was blocked for several hours over a suspected breach of rules on hate speech. Police also filed a criminal complaint to prosecutors over suspected incitement.

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