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CRIME

Does ‘Baron Cut and Paste’s’ punishment fit the crime?

Disgraced former Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has escaped criminal prosecution for plagiarizing his doctoral dissertation – by making a $20,000 donation to charity. Is that really fair? Have your say.

Does ‘Baron Cut and Paste's’ punishment fit the crime?
Photo: DPA

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Guttenberg was once one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s most popular and promising cabinet ministers. But he got caught up in a nasty plagiarism scandal earlier this year, eventually resigning on March 1 after being accused of lifting at least 23 passages in his dissertation on constitutional law.

But to some the real scandal may be how he managed to escape criminal charges. Prosecutors said they closed their case against Guttenberg this week after he donated €20,000 to a children’s cancer charity.

The practice is actually quite common in Germany’s criminal justice system. Typically only those suspected of very minor crimes are invited to make donations in lieu of prosecution – and the poor are expected to make smaller ones than the rich.

Experts generally seem to see no problem with the arrangement.

Plagiarism expert Volker Rieble, for instance, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that it was “appropriate,” because other writers haven’t really faced economic damage from Guttenberg’s actions.

But what do you think? Did Guttenberg’s punishment fit the crime? Is it fair that he can now say he has no criminal record?

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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