AfD party members
AfD party membersReuters

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has put a regional branch of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) under surveillance, Reuters reported on Monday.

The move followed the AfD’s expulsion last month of Andreas Kalbitz, party chief in the eastern state of Brandenburg, over links with far-right groups. The AfD national executive committee’s decision is still disputed by rank-and-file members.

“The Brandenburg AfD has become more and more radical since its foundation and is now dominated by endeavors that are clearly directed against our free democratic fundamental order,” Brandenburg Interior Minister Michael Stuebgen said.

He said parts of the state branch were dominated by the ideas of a far-right group in the party known as “Der Fluegel” (The Wing).

“In the Brandenburg AfD, the ‘wing’ has long been the whole bird,” Stuebgen was quoted as having told reporters in Potsdam.

The AfD condemned Monday’s decision.

“(It) is just as wrong as the previous classifications of the AfD by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution,” party Honorary Chairman Alexander Gauland said in a statement emailed to Reuters, using the official name of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency.

AfD has a history of controversial statements, particularly surrounding the Holocaust. Party member Bjoern Hoecke caused a firestorm in February of 2017 when he suggested that Germany should end its decades-long tradition of acknowledging and atoning for its Nazi past.

Gauland in 2018 described the Nazi period as a mere "speck of bird poo in over 1,000 years of successful German history".

He had previously asserted, however, that Jews should not fear the strong election showing by AfD and indicated that he was ready to meet with German Jewish leaders “at any time.”

The AfD, which is the third largest party in the Bundestag, made large gains in two state elections in September of 2019.

Last year the BfV sought to classify the AfD as “a case to investigate” for possible unconstitutional activities.

A court, however, barred the agency from using the classification, saying it put the AfD at a disadvantage to other political parties. The court did not ask the agency to stop its surveillance of the party.