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German nationalist's anti-Muslim tweet prompts criminal complaint

Beatrix von Storch arrives at the Berlin state parliament shortly before initial results were expected in Berlin state elections on September 18, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. 

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BERLIN -- Beatrix von Storch, a prominent lawmaker with the nationalist and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany party, has run into trouble with police and Twitter over her response to a Cologne police tweet offering New Year greetings in Arabic. "Do they think they will calm the barbaric, Muslim, group-raping hordes of men this way?" Von Storch said, objecting to Saturday's tweet.

Her Twitter account was blocked for several hours Monday over a suspected breach of rules on hate speech. Police said Tuesday they filed a criminal complaint to prosecutors over suspected incitement. Now, Cologne prosecutors must decide whether an official inquiry will be launched, BBC News reports.

Von Storch is one of 92 lawmakers for Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in the national parliament and her immunity from prosecution would have to be lifted for any investigation to be launched.

New Year celebrations in Cologne were overshadowed two years ago when hundreds of women complained of being groped and robbed, mostly by groups of migrants. One year ago, police in Cologne faced criticism for questioning hundreds of men of North African descent. On New Year's Eve just days ago, in Berlin, a "safety zone" for women was set up, according to the BBC.

The argument over von Storch's tweet -- and a similar post on Facebook that she said was blocked in Germany -- coincided with the full entry into force Monday of a law aimed at cracking down on hate speech on social networks. A requirement has now taken effect for "clearly criminal" posts to be deleted or blocked within 24 hours.

AfD leader Alexander Gauland portrayed the incident as a consequence of the new law, which his party has strongly opposed, declaring that it is "already showing its freedom-curbing effect on the first day of the new year." He called on social media users to post the deleted posts.