Teenager turns self in after attack on German politician

Thousands marched in Berlin and in Dresden, where the attack happened (CHRISTIAN MANG)
Thousands marched in Berlin and in Dresden, where the attack happened (CHRISTIAN MANG)

A 17-year-old turned himself in to German police Sunday after an attack on a lawmaker that the country's leaders decried as a threat to democracy, as thousands turned out to march against political violence.

The teenager reported to police in the eastern city of Dresden early Sunday morning and said he was "the perpetrator who had knocked down the SPD politician", police said in a statement.

Matthias Ecke, 41, a European parliament lawmaker for Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), was set upon by four attackers as he put up EU election posters in Dresden on Friday night, according to police.

Ecke was "seriously injured" and required an operation after the attack, his party said.

Scholz on Saturday condemned the attack as a threat to democracy.

"We must never accept such acts of violence," he said.

"If an attack with a political motive... is confirmed just a few weeks from the European elections, this serious act of violence would also be a serious act against democracy," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.

Police later Sunday wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the 17-year-old, who had no previous criminal record, had so far "not commented on the motive for the offence".

Armin Schuster, interior minister for Saxony state, said police were still searching for the other attackers and he urged them to turn themselves in.

- Demonstrations -

Ecke, who is head of the SPD's European election list in the Saxony region, was just the latest political target to be attacked in Germany.

Police said a 28-year-old man putting up posters for the Greens had been "punched" and "kicked" earlier in the evening on the same Dresden street.

Last week two Greens deputies were abused while campaigning in Essen in western Germany and another was surrounded by dozens of demonstrators in her car in the east of the country.

According to provisional police figures, 2,790 crimes were committed against politicians in Germany in 2023, up from 1,806 the previous year, but fewer than the 2,840 recorded in 2021, when legislative elections took place.

Thousands of people attended demonstrations in solidarity with Ecke on Sunday.

In Dresden, around 3,000 people gathered in the city centre following a call from political parties and civil society organisations, according to a police spokesman.

In Berlin, an AFP reporter put the number at around 2,000.

"It's important to me to do something about the fact that this hatred is flooding people," a 70-year-old protester who gave her name only as Gudrun told AFP.

Faeser is planning to call a special conference with Germany's regional interior ministers next week to address violence against politicians, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper.