BERLIN — The police in Germany have arrested a 53-year-old man with a history of support for the far right in connection with a series of death threats sent to well-known progressives, including a lawyer, a politician and a comedian, the authorities said on Tuesday.
The threats usually included information known only to the authorities, such as the names of the targets’ children or their home addresses, initially leading investigators to suspect that police officers were involved and adding to concerns about the increasing influence of far-right extremists within the ranks of law enforcement.
Peter Beuth, interior minister for the central state of Hesse, where most of the victims lived, told reporters on Tuesday, “The threatening letters had raised very serious suspicions about the police.” But, he added, “According to everything we know today, no Hessian police officer was ever responsible.”
The authorities said on Tuesday that the suspect, who has not been publicly identified in keeping with German privacy laws, had never worked as a police officer. Many of the notes were signed “NSU 2.0,” a reference to a far-right terrorist group that killed 10 people, laid bombs and committed robberies for more than a decade, starting in 1999.
The authorities in Hesse said that the death threats began in 2018 and were sent mostly to women known for their work on behalf of migrants.
The suspect was detained in Berlin at the request of the authorities in Hesse as part of an investigation that began in 2019.
The man has a criminal record that includes unspecified right-wing crimes, according to the Hesse State authorities. Several news outlets reported that he had obtained at least some of the personal information by contacting public registries and demanding access while impersonating a police officer.
The campaign of threats also inspired copycats. Last summer, a former police officer in Bavaria and his wife were arrested on charges of sending similar threatening letters.