• Germany's news in English

Lawmakers also named in treason probe

AFP/DPA/The Local · 7 Aug 2015, 15:40

Published: 07 Aug 2015 10:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Aug 2015 15:40 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Germany's intelligence agency - the Federal Office the Protection of the Constitution - in its complaint "directed attention to members of parliament" and "explicitly names" a nine-member panel, said an excerpt of an article from Saturday's edition of Der Spiegel.

News of Germany's first media treason investigation in over half a century -- which targets the blog Netzpolitik.org (Net politics) for publishing the agency's Internet surveillance plans -- has sparked a storm of press freedom protests.

Der Spiegel reported that the agency's complaint "against persons unknown" named not just the bloggers but also a parliamentary panel that had access to the leaked documents.

The intelligence agency said in March and April letters to police seen by AFP that the blog report in large parts matches "word for word" a paper it had prepared for the parliamentary panel.

In a blog post published on Friday, Netzpolitik.org editor Markus Beckedahl demanded that the treason investigation into himself and his colleague Andre Meister be ended officially, saying that the journalists remain under legal threat.

"Former Chief Prosecutor [Harald] Range said last Friday that the investigation into us would be put on hold," Beckedahl wrote.

"According to the law governing criminal investigations (Strafprozessordnung, StPO), there is no such thing as an investigation 'being on hold'. A promise not to take measures... is worth precisely nothing."

The authorities could change their mind at any time, leaving himself and his colleagues under a constant threat of legal action, Beckedahl insists.

He is also concerned that he and his colleagues may be under surveillance at work and in their private lives – something spokespeople for the Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry refused to rule out when he asked them.

"In treason investigations, the authorities have the complete arsenal of surveillance measures at their disposal that was conceived for terrorists and the worst of criminals," Beckedahl wrote.

"And we have always warned against the fact that these measures could also be misused. Now we are confronted with the fact that we ourselves have become victims... that isn't a nice feeling."

As well as an end to the investigation, Beckedahl wants copies of any files obtained through surveillance of himself and his colleagues before they are deleted.

He and his team have a further list of demands including an "acknowledgement that the accusation of treason was absurd," a clarification of who bears ultimate responsibility for the allegations, and improvements to Germany's laws on whistle-blowing.

Netzpolitik was under investigation for two incidents when it published classified documents in February and April this year.

The files revealed plans for surveillance of digital networks and social media by the intelligence service.

Range defends treason proceeding

Range used an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday to defend the decision to launch a treason investigation into digital policy blog Netzpolitik, which saw him fired by the government earlier this week.

"I didn't want to slink out of the place like a beaten dog, but walk upright through the door – and to avoid making myself criminally liable," Range told the newspaper on Friday.

Former German chief federal prosecutor Harald Range. Photo: DPA

Range criticized Justice Minister Heiko Maas' move to end an independent analysis to determine whether the blog's publication of classified documents was a crime.

"Influencing investigations because their outcome isn't politically convenient is an insufferable encroachment on the independence of the judiciary," he said.

News of Range's dismissal came on the same day that Maas shut down the external expert evaluation of the case.

Story continues below…

The former top prosecutor justified launching an official investigation into Netzpolitik by saying that he couldn't commission the independent analysis without one.

But Beckedahl contested these statements in his Friday blog post, writing that "experts told us that the chief prosecutor could have ordered an evaluation without launching an investigation... nowhere in the StPO does it say that an analysis can only be obtained when an investigation is officially launched."

Minister still in line of fire

Maas has not drawn a line under the affair by firing Range, with both the Minister himself and the head of the intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maaßen, targeted for criticism from different parts of the political spectrum.

The left and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) have called for Maaßen's resignation, while Maas has been critized from left and right for intervening too late and too heavy-handedly.

Now Linke (Left Party) MPs in parliament want to start an inquiry into the interior affairs committee.

“The facts belong on the parliament table, so that MPs can make up their own minds,” Linke MP Ulla Jelpke said.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd