A former German legislator has confessed to downloading child porn from the Internet and agreed to pay a €5,000 ($5,600) fine to bring his trial to an end.
“I realised that I had made a mistake. It took me a long time (to realise that),” former Social Democratic (SPD) lawmaker Sebastian Edathy said in a statement read out in court by his lawyer.
Edathy, 45, agreed to pay the fine to the Child Protection Agency in the western German state of Lower Saxony for downloading the material onto a parliamentary laptop.
State prosecutors had claimed that Edathy had acquired child pornographic videos and pictures from the Internet in 2013.
Once considered a rising star in the SPD, Edathy was forced to give up his parliamentary seat last year after investigators claimed that his name had appeared on the client list of a Canadian company that had allegedly been distributing child pornography.
Edathy’s decision to step down from the Bundestag following the claims resulted in the German government tightening the laws concerning child pornography.
Previously, German law banned images of sex with minors, but not all images of those pictured in lewd poses.
The new law made the sale of the latter a criminal offence with prison sentences of one to three years in prison.
The claims that Edathy downloaded child porn also sparked a political scandal in Germany about whether he was tipped off by high-ranking officials weeks in advance of police searches of his home and offices.
The former head of Germany’s national police, Joerg Ziercke, denied tipping off Edathy via Michael Hartmann, another SPD lawmaker, that an inquiry was under way.
This is in turn lead to the creation of a parliamentary inquiry into whether officials had breached secrecy rules in the case.
Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich also resigned last year over charges that he prematurely revealed the criminal investigation to the SPD.
His resignation sparked tensions in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats-led (CDU) coalition, in which the SPD is junior partner.
“In the criminal case against Sebastian Edathy on possession of child pornography, the proceedings ... are stopped,” the judge, Juergen Seifert, said yesterday, the second day of the trial.
He added: “The accused in the end ... admitted his wrongdoing in front of the entire German public.”
The judge also said that child pornography was a “grave crime” and that without a market for it, the images would not be produced.
“However every human being, Mr Edathy too, deserves a second chance,” he added.
Edathy looked visibly relieved when the proceedings were halted.
Edathy gained prominence for heading a parliamentary panel into the shock 2011 discovery of a neo-Nazi killer cell.
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