German far right party leader defends questioned donations

A leading German far-right politician defended herself Friday against suggestions she might have knowingly accepted illegal campaign donations.

"I resolutely reject the allegations," Alice Weidel, co-head of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, said in a statement before a meeting of the party's leadership in the eastern city of Magdeburg.

"They lack any basis and represent an attempt to discredit me personally and politically," she said.

Prosecutors in the southern city of Konstanz have asked parliament to lift Weidel's immunity so they can investigate donations totaling about 130,000 euros ($146,500) that her local party chapter received from Switzerland last year.

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.

Alternative for Germany said the money, marked "campaign donation Alice Weidel," was used to pay bills — reported to include social media advertising and lawyer's fees — but later refunded to the sender after doubts were raised about its legality.

German media reported that the donation had been funneled through a Swiss pharmaceutical company's account to hide the true sender's identity.

Weidel claimed Friday that reports on the case contained "significant errors," without elaborating. She declined to comment on the legal investigation.

Separately, her party — known by its acronym AfD — has acknowledged receiving 150,000 euros from a Netherlands-based foundation called Stichting Identiteit Europa. The party said that donation, also sent to Weidel's local chapter, was returned three months later because "neither the identity nor the motivation of the donor could be determined without doubt."

AfD leaders said after their meeting with Weidel in Magdeburg that "the matter is being investigated very intensively at all levels of the party at the moment."

It added that party leaders "see no fault" on the part of Weidel.

AfD came third in national elections last year.

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David Rising contributed to this report.