Germany opposition raps treason probe against journalists

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German lawmakers demand parliamentary examination on role of government and spy agency on treason charges against two journalists

BERLIN – Germany’s opposition parties demanded a parliamentary examination on the controversial treason probe against two journalists who published secret service plans for the surveillance of the Internet.

The opposition Green Party’s parliamentary group leader Katrin-Göring Eckardt said Wednesday that the government’s decision to dismiss Attorney General Harald Range due to his insistence on the probe was not sufficient.

“Interior Minister [Thomas] De Maiziere and Justice Minister [Heiko] Maas cannot escape by sacrificing Range as a pawn. Now they should immediately explain who played what role in this attack against press freedom,” she told Passauer Neuen Presse daily.

“The fastest way now for uncovering the truth can be an extraordinary meeting of Parliament’s committee on legal affairs. I expect from the ruling Christian Democrats and Social Democrat Party not to block this effort to investigate the truth,” she added.

Opposition Left Party called on the government to dismiss the chief of domestic intelligence Hans-Georg Maassen, who initiated the treason probe against journalists by filing a complaint in March and insisting that the leak of the “state secrets” by journalists has threatened national security.

Justice Minister Maas and Interior Minister De Maiziere were informed about the complaint already in May, but did not block the treason probe against journalists, according to Bild daily.

When news of the treason investigation against Netzpolitik journalists Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister became public last week there was an outcry that culminated in a 2,000-strong rally in Berlin and the government distanced itself from the treason investigation.

The Left Party’s co-chairman Bernd Riexinger demanded from the government to immediately inform the parliament with all the details on the scandal.

He said if Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government refuses to inform lawmakers, then it would become conceivable for opposition lawmakers to move for establishing an exclusive committee of inquiry to investigate the scandal.

Germany’s Attorney General Harald Range was removed from his post on Tuesday after he accused the government of putting pressure on prosecutors to halt a review of a treason probe against two journalists.

Despite his removal from the office, the future of the controversial probe against journalists remains unclear.

Justice Minister Maas announced last Friday that legal experts of the ministry would deliver a legal view next week, on whether or not the publication of the journalists warranted prosecution under treason.

He expressed his doubt that these documents can constitute a crime of treason as defined by the laws.

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