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German nationalist probed for selling Nazi-era memorabilia

FILE - In this July 3, 2016 file photo top candidate of the nationalist party Alternative for Germany, AfD, for elections in the western state of Saarland next year Rudolf Mueller poses for a photo in Voelklingen, Germany. Mueller allegedly sold medals and currency used in Nazi internment camps at his antiques store. Saarbruecken prosecutors said Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, that they are probing whether Mueller broke the law banning the use of symbols deemed to be in breach of Germany's constitution. (Oliver Dietze/dpa via AP, file)

FILE - In this July 3, 2016 file photo top candidate of the nationalist party Alternative for Germany, AfD, for elections in the western state of Saarland next year Rudolf Mueller poses for a photo in Voelklingen, Germany. Mueller allegedly sold medals and currency used in Nazi internment camps at his antiques store. Saarbruecken prosecutors said Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, that they are probing whether Mueller broke the law banning the use of symbols deemed to be in breach of Germany's constitution. (Oliver Dietze/dpa via AP, file)

BERLIN — A leading member of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party is under investigation following reports that he sold Nazi-era memorabilia, German prosecutors said Thursday.

Rudolf Mueller, the party's top candidate for elections in the western state of Saarland next year, allegedly sold Nazi medals and currency used in a concentration camp at his antiques store.

The claims were first reported by the weekly Stern and the public broadcaster ARD.

Saarbruecken prosecutors said they are probing whether Mueller broke a law banning the use of symbols deemed to be in breach of Germany's constitution. Such symbols include the Nazi swastika, which was often found on German World War II medals. There are exceptions allowing for artistic and educational use to document the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes.

Reached by phone Thursday, Mueller referred to an interview he gave the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper, in which the politician said that he didn't believe he broke the law.

Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism and far-right links among its members and supporters since it was founded three years ago. The party has still gained significant support with campaigns against migrants and now has members in ten of Germany's 16 state parliaments.

Most recently, it received 14.2 per cent of the vote Sunday in the election for Berlin's state assembly. Following that vote, AfD's co-chairwoman Frauke Petry brushed aside reporters' questions about anti-Semitism in the party as "outrageous" and "insinuations."

The party announced two days later that one of its elected members, Kay Nerstheimer, had relinquished his seat in the AfD caucus following revelations that he had previously been a member of the far-right German Defence League.