Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas gesticulates during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (Photo by JENS SCHLUETER / AFP)

The Berlin police are investigating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on initial suspicion of incitement to hatred.

A police spokeswoman told the Evangelical Press Service (EPD) in Berlin on Friday that a criminal complaint had been filed with the state police for “relativizing the Shoah” in connection with the statements made by Abbas in the Federal Chancellery.

The investigation will be processed by the State Criminal Police Office and sent promptly to the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office for a further decision. The “Bild” newspaper reported about it first.

Abbas was in the Chancellery in Berlin for a meeting on Tuesday. At the press conference that followed, he said Israel had committed “50 massacres,” “50 holocausts,” in 50 Palestinian villages and towns. The incident had triggered widespread outrage, also because Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) did not immediately react to this statement.

The complaint against Abbas was made on Wednesday by Mike Delberg from Berlin. He was a Jewish German and grandson of Holocaust survivors, Delberg wrote in the ad he posted on Twitter: “Through his statements, Mahmud Abbas downplayed and relativized the most terrible time in the history of our country and in the history of my family and religious community .” Delberg explained on Twitter that anyone who downplays the Holocaust should be punished for it.

The diplomatic status of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Germany is apparently still unclear. According to the federal government, there is diplomatic immunity, a government spokesman said on Friday in Berlin. According to the statement, it was an official visit by a representative of the Palestinian Authority.

However, the judicial authorities would have to clarify in a binding manner whether the conditions for such immunity actually existed. If this were the case, Abbas could not be prosecuted.

According to a report in the “Bild” newspaper, the Foreign Office also assumes that Abbas enjoys immunity from prosecution because he was in Germany as part of an “official visit”.

According to the criminal law professor Michael Kubiciel, quoted by the “Bild” newspaper, this assessment is disputed. Abbas can only enjoy immunity if he was in Germany “as a representative of another state”. The question “whether Palestine is a state or not” is therefore “of crucial importance” in this matter.

Germany has not yet recognized Palestine as a state, but maintains diplomatic relations with the Palestinian territories.