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FILE PHOTO: Andre Poggenburg of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD) arrives to attend the party's final elections campaign rally for the upcomming Saxony-Anhalt state elections in Magdeburg, Germany, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Turkish community plans to bring criminal charges against a senior member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) for calling Turks "camel drivers" who should return to their "mud huts and polygamy".
Andre Poggenburg, AfD head in the state of Saxony Anhalt who was reprimanded by his party last year for using neo-Nazi slogans, made the comments on Ash Wednesday, when German politicians traditionally hold fiery speeches.
"These camel drivers should go off to where they belong: far, far beyond the Bospurus to their mud huts and polygamy," Poggenburg told party members, calling Turks living in Germany "camel traders" and an "unpatriotic rabble".
The association representing Germany's Turkish community said it would bring charges against Poggenburg for inciting hatred, with its leader Gokay Sofuoglu noting that the constitution prohibits incitement, defamation and discrimination.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also accused Poggenburg of stirring hatred.
"What I see are politicians, who make a strategy out of excessive language, and their recklessness and hatred," he said in a speech on Thursday. "I only hope that citizens of this country do not allowed themselves to be carried along."
Poggenburg defended his comments, saying they were in line with the centuries-old Ash Wednesday tradition, which marks the end of carnival season, saying he had not meant to insult other nationalities, and warning against political correctness that could limit freedom of opinion.
His comments were a response to the Turkish community's criticism of a plan to set up a "Heimat" or homeland ministry as part of a coalition deal between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD).
Poggenburg referred to the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces, saying: "And they want to tell us something about history and homeland."
Last year, Poggenburg shocked many Germans by sending messages in a WhatsApp group of AfD members saying "Germany for the Germans", a slogan often used by the ultra-rightist National Democratic Party (NPD).
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)