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04.08.2015 22:48 News >> German Attorney General Sacked Over Treason Case

German Attorney General Sacked Over Treason Case

Harald Range dismissed after complaining of government meddling in judiciary's independence.

Germany's attorney general was sacked on Tuesday, the justice minister announced, amid a row about government interference in the independence of the judiciary.

Harald Range was removed from his post after he accused the government of putting pressure on prosecutors to halt a review of a treason case against of two journalists who posted confidential documents relating to the BfV domestic security agency.

In a Berlin news conference, Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who publicly opposed the investigation into Netzpolitik journalists, said Range's comments were "incomprehensible".

He added: "I have told Attorney General Range that I have completely lost trust in his administration and, in agreement with the chancellery, I will request his retirement today."

The widely criticized treason investigation against Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister led to a public spat between the government and Range, the country's most senior judicial figure.

Range accused the government of ordering him to stop an independent examination of the case. "Exerting influence on the investigation just because of its possible consequences, which might not be politically opportune, is an unacceptable attack against the independence of the judiciary," he told journalists in Karlsruhe, southwest Germany.

"Press freedom is a high value. But this freedom is not limitless, even on the Internet. It does not release journalists from adhering to the law. Just as with press freedom, the independence of the judiciary is also protected by the constitution."

Range had suspended the treason probe on Friday and announced an independent review into whether the documents were sufficiently sensitive to justify a treason prosecution.

On Tuesday, he said the independent view confirmed they were a "state secret" and their publication warranted prosecution.

In February, Beckedahl and Meister published BfV plans to expand the surveillance of online communications.

When news of the investigation broke last week there was a public backlash that culminated in a 2,000-strong rally in Berlin and the government distanced itself from the treason investigation.

Beckedahl and Meister welcomed the decision to remove Range, who was due to retire early next year, and demanded all inquiries into the case be halted. - Berlin



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