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Nov 17, 7:12 AM EST

German court dismisses far-right police officer


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BERLIN (AP) -- A German federal court on Friday dismissed a Berlin police officer accused of having far-right tattoos and repeatedly giving the Hitler salute, 10 years after he was first suspended.

The Federal Administrative Court ruled that people who reject the German constitutional order are unfit for public service, even if their behavior doesn't constitute a criminal offense.

Berlin prosecutors in 2007 opened several investigations of the officer. They were closed because, among other things, investigators couldn't prove he had given the stiff-armed Nazi salute inside Germany - where it's a crime - or shown his tattoos in public.

The tattoos included runes and the notes of the Horst Wessel Song, a popular Nazi anthem, though the man denied being aware of its origin.

Lower courts largely rejected disciplinary measures against the officer. The local government appealed.

The federal court said a tattoo constitutes a "bold proclamation" of support of an organization or ideology. It said that the man's "fundamental and lasting departure from the principles of constitutional order" was also proven by him giving the Hitler salute, posing in front of a swastika flag and by a collection of Nazi memorabilia at his apartment.

German law makes it very difficult to dismiss civil servants. A spokesman for the Berlin branch of the GdP police union, Benjamin Jendro, said it's a good thing that officers enjoy protection from wrongful accusations - but "in this case, a Nazi benefited for years" from the system. He welcomed the federal court ruling.

He called for authorities to look quickly into "whether this person still has connections to like-minded sympathizers in active service."

Berlin's state interior minister, Andreas Geisel, also welcomed the ruling. "Anyone who talks or behaves in an extremist way, openly or covertly, has no place in our police," he said.

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