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Prosecutors probe ex-minster in Edathy affair

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Prosecutors probe ex-minster in Edathy affair
Ex-minister Friedrich (l) resigned last Friday. Sebastian Edathy (r) also quit last week. Photo: DPA
12:33 CET+01:00
UPDATE: State prosecutors launched a preliminary investigation on Tuesday into whether a former minister broke the law when he disclosed details of an ongoing child porn investigations into a politician.

Ex-agriculture minister Hans-Peter Friedrichis is suspected of having betrayed state secrets in his former role as interior minister last October when he told the Social Democrat (SPD) party chief Sigmar Gabriel that a member of his party, Sebastian Edathy, had been implicated in an investigation in Canada into child porn.

Despite resigning from his new post as agriculture minister on Friday, Friedrich denied all wrongdoing in a TV interview with ZDF broadcaster on Tuesday morning.

The Christian Socialist politician said he had been pushed out of office by disreputable lawyers and "pedants" who wished to harm him. Friedrich said he had been asking himself: "Why are you the person who has to step down, when you just did your duty?"

Friedrich emphasized he had told Gabriel that no concrete charges were being brought against Gabriel’s party colleague Edathy, who resigned earlier this month. He only told him that "compromising" information had come to light.

Friedrich said he had assumed his conversation with Gabriel last October would be kept confidential and said he acted to protect Germany's image abroad while the two parties were negotiating to form a new government.

Yet Friedrich, who confirmed he would not be leaving politics, gave no open criticism of the SPD's handling of the affair, saying he would not be drawn into the increasingly belligerent mood between the coalition partners.

"I'm staying out of it now," he said.

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Friedrich's interview came as it emerged Edathy's work laptop went missing two days after his apartment and office were searched by authorities. The theft was reported on February 12th via fax, parliament spokesman Ernst Hebeker confirmed to the press.

Yet in reality, a federal police spokesman told Spiegel reported that the laptop had been stolen two weeks before this, on January 31st - and was taken on a train between Hannover and Amsterdam.

The investigating state prosecutor in Hannover, which has so far found little concrete evidence to incriminate Edathy, told Stern magazine they had not known about the missing laptop.

As the case grew murkier, the CDU/CSU fraction demanded a full explanation from the SPD of who knew what when. Some accuse the party of having warned Edathy about the investigation in time for him to remove the evidence.

Michael Grosse-Brömer (CDU) said the SPD had to “play their part” in restoring trust within the coalition government.

A crisis meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening at which party leaders Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), Horst Seehofer (CSU) and Gabriel (SPD) will attempt to defuse tension between their members in the coalition government.

READ MORE: Child porn scandal sparks coalition crisis

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