Germany's domestic intelligence agency recently put the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party under surveillance for suspected extremist links that pose a potential threat to democracy, German media outlets report.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV) would not comment on the reports because of ongoing legal action by the AfD.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the BfV, would neither confirm nor deny the news reports, but multiple German media organizations confirmed the surveillance through government sources close to the situation.
On Wednesday, AfD's parliamentary leadership, which controls 88 of 709 seats in the legislative body, described the surveillance as "completely unjustified" and vowed to fight it in court.
BfV's February 24 decision to classify AfD as a potential security threat is the first time in Germany's post-war history that a political party represented in Parliament has been put under such scrutiny.
The designation gives the intelligence agency additional surveillance powers, including tapping phones and other communications, and monitoring the movements of AfD members.
The AfD has become the main opposition in the German Parliament, which is entrenched in politics at all levels across the nation.
The move also comes ahead of the September election that will choose Chancellor Angela Merkel's successor.
Alexander Gauland, AfD's parliamentary floor leader, told reporters the designation is clearly an effort to ruin the party's chances in the election, and the matter will be decided in the courts.
The AfD is currently the largest of four opposition parties in the national Parliament and has lawmakers in all 16 state assemblies.
The party has moved steadily to the right since it was founded in 2013 for critics of the shared euro currency. It has been strongly denounced in recent years for its anti-immigrant rhetoric and ties to neo-Nazis. Several AfD members sympathized with the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Several senior figures have quit in recent years, warning that the party was being taken over by far-right extremists.
Recent polls have shown support for AfD sagging as low as 9% after winning 12.6% of the vote in 2017.