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Germany bolsters gun curbs, financial policing to rein in far right

FILE PHOTO: Germany’s national IT Security Centre against cyberattacks in Bonn

By Thomas Escritt

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Tuesday unveiled measures ranging from stronger financial policing and earlier detection of so-called botnets to tightened firearms controls to tackle a far-right surge that has spooked the country.

The measures reflect widespread nervousness that the far-right Alternative for Germany party could end up the largest party in several state parliaments later this year, propelled by a gloomy economy and overburdened public services.

"We want to use all the instruments of the rule of law to protect our democracy," Faeser said in a statement. "We want to break up extreme right networks and take away their income streams and their weapons."

Privacy laws have hindered security services' ability to monitor financial flows to extremist groups. A new law will allow them to look at financial flows if there is "potential danger".

The Interior Ministry will also set up a new early-detection unit for foreign-backed botnets - networks of infected computers - that "attempt to manipulate the free formation of opinions" ahead of this year's regional and European elections.

The measures also include a ban on semi-automatic weapons and a rule forbidding members of organisations that are suspected of being right extremist from owning weapons. Far-right public servants will be more easily dismissed.

A further measure embeds the rules governing the appointment of Constitutional Court judges in the hard-to-amend constitution with the aim of protecting the top court's independence and preventing a weakening of democracy.

Germany spent much of the post-war era trying to win back international respectability after the genocidal crimes committed by Adolf Hitler's Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s, making the rise of far-right forces in the country especially sensitive.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Nick Macfie)