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German prosecutors seek to lift immunity of far-right leader

BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors said Wednesday they are seeking to lift the parliamentary immunity of a prominent far-right politician as part of a probe into potentially illegal campaign donations.

Prosecutors in the southern city of Konstanz want to investigate Alice Weidel, who is co-leader of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, over donations from Switzerland totaling about 130,000 euros ($146,500).

German law allows party donations from outside the European Union only if they are made by German or EU citizens. Switzerland isn’t a member of the 28-nation bloc.

In order to open a formal investigation into a lawmaker, prosecutors have to first ask for that person’s immunity to be lifted.

Alternative for Germany, which placed third in national elections last year, acknowledged this week that Weidel’s local party chapter received the money from Switzerland, which was marked “campaign donation Alice Weidel.” The Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported that the payments were listed as coming from a company named PWS Pharmawholesale International AG.

German media reported Wednesday that Weidel used part of the money to pay for social media advertising during her election campaign and for a lawyer suing journalists on her behalf.

Alternative for Germany confirmed she used the funds to pay bills, but said she later ordered the donations returned after doubts were raised about their legality.

Late Wednesday, Alternative for Germany released a statement saying it had informed parliament of a separate donation of 150,000 euros to Weidel’s local chapter from a Belgian foundation called Stichting Identiteit Europa. The party said the donation was received Feb. 13 but was returned three months later because “neither the identity nor the motivation of the donor could be determined without doubt.”

The party said Weidel acted within the law with both donations.

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