Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Edathy Affair Shakes German Government.

with 11 comments

Denies Child Pornography Allegations.

There are actually already enough problems that need to be discussed during a regular meeting of leading politicians from the three parties in Germany’s this Tuesday. But now the child porn allegations surrounding former Social Democratic Party (SPD) lawmaker Sebastian Edathy, and the resignation of now former Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of the Christian Social Union (CSU), will take over the agenda.

Deuesche Welle.

Background.

2010

The case started in 2010 when Canadian police began to investigate a global provider of child pornography: Azov Films, based in Toronto, is said to have customers in 94 countries, including Germany.

2012

The Canadian investigators tell the German Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA) that some 800 Germans are believed to be Azov customers. Among them is the 42-year-old Social Democrat member of the Bundestag, Sebastian Edathy.

More (chronologically ordered)  information DW.

Last week.

A senior German minister resigned on Friday amid accusations he leaked confidential information about a fellow lawmaker suspected of possessing child pornography, dealing a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her two-month old government.

The resignation of Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, the latest in a series of cabinet departures under Merkel, could aggravate tensions in Berlin’s new “grand coalition” at a time when it is trying to push through complex reforms of pensions and renewable energy.

What started as a small domestic affair erupted into a major political scandal on Thursday when it emerged that Friedrich had informed SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel in October that Edathy could become the target of a probe.

Gabriel then passed that on to two other senior members of his party — Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now foreign minister, and Thomas Oppermann, who leads the SPD in parliament.

Prosecutors in Hanover, who are investigating Edathy, have complained that the leaking may have compromised their case.

Edathy appears to have been given advance warning of the investigation, Hanover prosecutor Joerg Froehlich told a news conference on Friday.

As a result, German media have reported, relevant information on Edathy’s computers may have been destroyed.

It is still unclear who tipped off Edathy. If it emerged that he was alerted by a senior SPD member, it could cause even greater upheaval in Merkel’s coalition.

Reuters.

Edathy, a social democratic (SPD) Minister from a family of Indian background,   is known for his critical writings on the German far-right.

“The 44-year-old Edathy, well known in Germany for leading a 2012-13 inquiry into neo-Nazi killings, resigned from parliament last week, citing health reasons, and has threatened to sue the newspaper that first reported about the child porn suspicions earlier this week.”

The Indian site DNA reports,

Sebastian Edathy, 44, who is facing probe for allegedly possessing child pornography, has denied any wrongdoing.

In a formal complaint filed with justice minister of Lower Saxony yesterday, Edathy’s lawyer Christian Noll claimed that the chief prosecutor Joerg Froehlich was not telling the truth when he told a news conference last Friday that the videos and photos of naked boys acquired by the ex-MP from a Canadian firm were “in the border areas” of child pornography. “Froehlich did not mention that specialists of the Federal Criminal Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Frankfurt and the Centre for Combating Internet and Computer Criminality in Giessen have evaluated the videos and photos some months earlier and they came to the conclusion that the materials were not relevant for a criminal prosecution against Edathy,” the 11-page complaint said.

Froehlich also “massively violated” the personal rights of Edathy and ruined his professional, social and private life, it claimed.

The letter described as “simply disgusting” the chief prosecutor’s assumption that Edathy had acted conspiratorially in ordering the videos and photos by using credit cards issued for hidden accounts and by downloading these materials with the computers in the Bundestag.

On the contrary, Edathy had ordered the videos and photos under his name, used credit cards issued to him and gave his own address, the letter said. Edathy’s “fully open handling” is exactly the opposite of a conspiratorial behaviour, his lawyer said. Therefore the chief prosecutor’s assumption is “defaming” and it is a “proof for his prejudice”, the letter argued.

Meanwhile, Edathy has reported to the Bundestag that his official laptop used in the house was stolen.

Last week, prosecutors raided his houses and office, but found very little evidences to incriminate him. Edathy, son of a migrant from Kerala, charged that the prosecutor’s office opened an investigation against him without any concrete charges.

Surprisingly, Taz reports today, that, this would seem, “a godsend for brown conspiracy theories.” But, “from right-wing circles surprisingly little has been heard.” Preoccupied with their own quarrels and their electoral campaigns,  the far-right has so far only spoken out in social media.

11 Responses

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  1. You could have used at least one of these two pictures (the first would be more appropriate, I suspect), from from Edathy’s website, to illustrate the story http://www.edathy.de/random_image/wechselbild6.jpg or http://www.edathy.de/random_image/wechselbild10.jpg .

    Incidentally, Edathy was a member and chairman of a parliamentary committee which, in 2009, pushed through harder laws regarding “youth pornography”.

    The whole issue here is about “child non-pornography”, if you like. The images that Edathy is said to have purchased were classed as “non-sexual” images of young boys in their early teens and slightly younger. One article, in the Taz, I think, claimed that magazines full of such images were standard fare on the ‘top shelves’ (or their German equivalent: any shelf whatsoever) of German newsagents/kiosks until the mid-1990s when the internet changed the business model of such publishers and the buying habits of such customers. Edathy is being investigated because a) he resigned from parliament, which triggered the raids on his home and offices and b) because one of the customers of the Canadian company was also a customer of “genuine” child pornography.

    One aside in this case is that the chairman (speaker) of the Bundestag, Lammert, has been complaining that a letter from the Hanover legal authorities, informing him of the investigations against Edathy (before he resigned as an MP) took so long (about a week) to reach him, and had seemingly already been opened when it arrived.

    It has since been revealed that, as many parts of the state do, Hanover uses a local ‘private’ (i.e. not Deutsche Post, which is also private, but you know what I mean) post company to deliver its mail. Obviously it doesn’t deliver to Berlin, but has a partner in the capital, which is also used for all council and state mail there (and is basically kept afloat by Berlin authorities using it for all its post; and by the same authorities paying benefits to the company’s workers, who earn, in many cases, below the poverty line). The letter arrived at some point in Berlin and was re-postmarked 5 days later before eventually getting to parliament. All to save about 3 cents.

    dagmar

    February 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm

  2. I noticed this case when you first mentioned it Dagmar and have tried to focus on the wider political effects, which seem to swell with every day.

    I see that he is also described as “ledig” (single) on the German Wikipedia entry.

    So, apart from what you say about one of the customers being a buyer of child pornography, what harm to others he’s done, and any taint of him being a Kinderschänder, is very far from being established.

    Andrew Coates

    February 18, 2014 at 5:37 pm

  3. The “will the government collapse” thing is indeed getting bigger by the day. Merkel has used her (in)famous statement “Gabriel has my fullest support” (Sigmar Gabriel, SPD leader), which she tends to use before sacking someone, sooner or later.

    More problematic at the moment than the CDU’s relationship with the SPD is the relationship between the CDU and it’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU.

    Because the Bavaria is almost a one-party state and responsible for, I think, about 10% of the total CDU-CSU vote, it has to have powerful ministers in the government, whether Merkel likes it or not (probably more ‘not’). That is why the CSU always gets a number of ministers and can push through mad, yet ‘populist’ (generally anti-foreigner/pro-car, ideally both in at the same time) policies through the coalition government, including those that Merkel and the SPD ‘categorically’ ruled out previously during the election campaign (in reply to the CSU pushing for them as part of their campaign).

    To put it politely. these CSU ministers do not generally show a great deal of intelligence or competence. But worse still than the internal government CSU-quota is the quota system inside the CSU itself. Bavaria is made up not only of Bavaria (Lower and Upper Bavaria), but also of Franconia (Upper, Middle and Lower), as well as Swabia (too small to able to demand its own minister).

    There has to be at least one new CSU minister from Franconia to replace the Francian agriculture (and previously interior) minister, Friedrich, who was forced to resign by Merkel (before she had the chance to declare her “fullest support”, which is a first). They’ve found someone, but they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. If the government were to collapse – unlikely I reckon, but who knows what’s going to come out next – it could well have as much to do with the problems between the CDU and the CSU as regarding the SPD. Both parties aren’t going to want elections – the SPD vote could well collapse further still, and all parties, except the Greens, would probably lose votes to the rightwing populists from the AfD (Germany’s UKIP, if you like), and none of the main parties want them in parliament. Though that possiblity might give them the possibility of destroying themselves very publicly and for good, as opposed to in private with the chance of recovery before the next general election, as is now happening.

    When to comes to Edathy, I suspect that the images he purchased might be considered illegal in Britain, but I’m not sure. Wasn’t there an ITN newsreader who got “done” once for having taken normal family photographs – i.e. of their child in the bathtub, as long ago as the early 1990s?

    In any case, someone purchasing such photographs – even though he made no attempt to hide his identity while doing so – may well have some kind of problem. It’s not as if (I assume) they count as works of art (a la Germaine Greer’s “Beautiful Boy”). The curious Taz article by Edathy from the end of last year suggests he knows he has some “personal difficulties” – http://www.taz.de/1/archiv/digitaz/artikel/?ressort=me&dig=2013/12/28/a0023&cHash=82fd8dfa0fe3e2c2d55aa59f69032895

    dagmar

    February 18, 2014 at 6:34 pm

  4. A non-dodgy comment-reply has landed in the moderation queue.

    dagmar

    February 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm

  5. Could Dagmar please clarify why, if Herr Edathy wanted pictures of pre-pubescent boys to illustrate his political literature, he did not obtain them from a picture agency but from a pornographer? Seems odd to me. Also, why would pictures such as you show of two young boys sitting in a railway carriage be considered for inclusion on the ‘top shelf’? Human sexuality is indeed a strange thing. I take on board the political implications of what you are saying, but I am flummoxed as to whay he would obtain these illustrations, either openly or secretly, from a pornographer.

    Sue R

    February 18, 2014 at 8:28 pm

  6. Sue: It’s not a railway carriage but appears to be his office at the Bundestag (German parliament). The book he’s holding is a very dry tomb about (West) German parliamentary democracy that they give to schoolkids when they come and visit.

    Both pics – clearly not pornographic and almost certainly not sexual – are from the front of Edathy’s website. My flippant point was that Edathy helped push through a law which means that (pornographic or sexualised) images which might “appear” to be of children (or maybe of youths – in German law they are two very different things, a difference that the law in the UK does not seem to understand, that a 16 or 14 year old is something very different to a 3 or 7 year old) can be treated as those which are actually of children. And that his website – not turned off yet, and still describing him as a SPD MP – publicises himself photographed awkwardly with schoolboys, with youngish lads.

    On the first point: it seems he obtained his photographs of naked boys/lads (my dictionary gives the translation as “knave”) not from a pornographer as such, but from someone who sold naked “non pornographic” photographs of children and youths (and maybe of adults, who knows?) who also had customers who bought child pornography from elsewhere.

    Edathy would probably argue the website concerned was a “picture agency”, actually that is the logic of the statements he has given so far.

    dagmar

    February 19, 2014 at 2:04 am

  7. Dagmar: In English law an under-18 year old is below the age of homosexual consent. It used to be 21 but they changed it. I agree mentally there is a world of difference between a 7 year old and a 17 year old. I’m a bit confused, is Herr Edathy in favour of pictures of unclad knaves or not? Still, seems rum to me a) that someone advertises themselves as offering ‘non-pornographic pictures of young boys, and 2) he ordered from such a site. Not that that is an offence but, it still strikes me as rum.

    Sue R

    February 19, 2014 at 5:57 pm

  8. There’s more than a mental but also a physical world of difference between a 3, a 7, a 10 or a 17 year old, one that – correct me if I’m wrong – neither English nor Scottish law recognises. In Germany, children are classed as being under 14, “youths” are 14-17 years old, “young adults” are 18-27, and those who are “coming of age” are 18-20.

    Regardless of this, it seems to be uncontroversial to state that MP Edathy purchased on many occasions “non pornographic” pictures of unclad knaves, who would be definately classed as “children” by any definition, so I would guess that he is indeed in favour of them, though the Taz article linked to suggested he was aware that he needs to get some kind of help (and probably aware he was about to be investigated), and one of his friends prays for him every day.

    And as you say, it may not be an offence, but his faux outrage at being associated with (‘genuine’) child pornography is a bit cheeky, to say the least.

    dagmar

    February 19, 2014 at 6:12 pm

  9. There is of course this (in the UK):

    (Daily Mail over the last three days)

    The truth about Labour’s apologists for paedophilia: Police probe child sex campaign group linked to three top party officials in wake of Savile scandal
    Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt linked to vile group
    They were key figures at National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL)
    The NCCL was an ‘affiliate’ of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE)
    PIE members may have abused children on an ‘industrial scale’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2562518/The-truth-Labour-apologists-paedophilia-Police-probe-child-sex-group-linked-party-officials-wake-Savile.html#ixzz2trE1anoJ

    Andrew Coates

    February 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm

  10. That PIE scandal is reheated mush. It’s thirty years ago. I remember it at the time. Still, throw enough mud around and some sticks. I don’t think English law cateogories young people so precisely as German (from what you say). A person is a ‘minor’ under the age of 18, the age of hetrosexual consent is 16, homosexual consent is 18. The age of criminal responsibility is 12, but between the ages of 10-12 a child can be held accountable for their actions depending on their mental maturity ie if they know the difference between right and wrong. (I think that’s right). Obviously, these distinctions affect what punishment is meted out to the child ie whether it is sent to a Young Offenders’ Institution or taken into care.

    Sue R

    February 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm

  11. I know that the discussion has moved on but I just wanted to correct what I wrote. Belatedly, I looked up the law as regards minors and I see that it has been brought into line with Germany. Presumably this is to do with the European Court of Justice etc.

    Sue R

    February 22, 2014 at 7:15 pm


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