BERLIN (AP) — Politically motivated crime in Germany last year reached its highest level since the government started tracking it more than 20 years ago, with the greatest threat coming from people with far-right motivations, the country’s top security official said Tuesday.

Overall, Germany registered 60,028 politically motivated crimes in 2023. The government considers numerous acts as political including intent to hinder democracy and crimes aimed at members of certain ethnic, religious or other groups.

Right-wing politically motivated crimes increased by 23% in 2023 to 28,945 cases, of which 1,270 were violent. Left-wing crimes increased by 11% to 7,777, of which 916 were violent.

“Politically motivated criminality has almost doubled within the last 10 years and continues to increase,” said Holger Münch, the president of the Federal Criminal Police Office. “Parts of the population are tending towards radicalization. These tendencies include attempts to delegitimize the state and its monopoly on violence.”

Earlier this month, a candidate from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ center-left Social Democrats was beaten up and seriously injured while campaigning for a seat in the European Parliament. Authorities believe that the four men arrested were motivated by right-wing beliefs. A few days later, a 74-year-old man with a history of mental illness assaulted Berlin’s top economic official, who sustained minor injuries.

“We are a strong democracy, but our democracy is under pressure,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters in Berlin.

The threat of political violence in the European Union was clear last week when the prime minister of Slovakia was shot in what the government called an assassination attempt. Many politicians in Slovakia blamed the heated political division there for creating the environment that led to the shooting.

Police in Germany also have recorded a drastic increase in crimes designated as antisemitic to the highest level since tracking began. They nearly doubled last year to 5,164. Münch said the increase is related to reactions to the Israel-Hamas war.

Faeser and Münch also said hate crimes increased by about 48% last year to 17,000, and crimes against asylum seekers increased by 75%.

Also on Tuesday, the trial of a right-wing group accused of planning to overthrow the German government in 2022 began in Frankfurt. The group includes a former lawmaker from the far-right Alternative for Germany party who allegedly planned to help members of the group gain access to the parliament building.

Left-wing violence has also been prominent. In March, arsonists set fire to an electrical line to a Tesla plant outside Berlin to protest its expansion. A far-left entity called Volcano Group claimed responsibility.

Germany’s government started tracking politically motivated crimes in 2001.

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