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SPD leaders knew about child porn allegations

Social Democrat leaders knew for months that one of their leading politicians allegedly possessed inappropriate images of children, it emerged on Thursday.

SPD leaders knew about child porn allegations
SPD leaders Oppermann, Gabriel and Steinmeier (l-r) and Sebastian Edathy (r). Photo: DPA

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German Social Democrat leaders knew for months that one of their leading politicians allegedly possessed inappropriate images of children, it emerged on Thursday.

Sebastian Edathy, who led a parliamentary inquiry into a string of neo-Nazi murders, issued a furious denial this week after his flat and office were searched by police.

It then emerged on Thursday that the SPD’s leading lights, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is Germany’s Foreign Minister, Thomas Oppermann, SPD parliamentary leader, and Sigmar Gabriel, economics and energy minister, knew in October about the allegations.

Oppermann said in a written statement on Thursday: “The SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel was approached in October 2013 by Interior Minister Peter Friedrich [and heard] that Sebastian Edathy’s name had turned up in investigations abroad.”

He said that Gabriel had told him and Steinmeier about the allegations, but they had not passed the information on to Edathy.

The case is being investigated by prosecutors in Hannover. Edathy denies any wrongdoing.

"The public allegation that I was in the possession of child pornographic magazines, or had bought them, is untrue," said the Social Democrat (SPD) politician in a statement on his Facebook page earlier this week.

"I take it the assumption of innocence also applies to me. There is no criminal behaviour to answer," added the 44-year-old domestic policy expert.

Edathy unexpectedly resigned from his seat on Friday, citing health considerations as the reason. He has been written off sick since the start of the year.

The politician came to national prominence last year when he chaired the parliamentary investigative committee into the failures of the authorities when investigating the series of murders later attributed to the NSU neo-Nazi terror group.

His report recommended security services employ more people from ethnic minorities and he said: "We have concluded that we are dealing with massive institutional failures that resulted from a dramatic underestimation of the danger of the violent far-right in Germany."

Edathy's flat in Rehburg am Steinhuder Meer near Hannover, and offices in nearby Nienburg and Stadthagen were searched by police on Monday.

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CRIME

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

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