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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 23:53 GMT
Kohl sues to gag Stasi files
Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl's reputation has been damaged by scandal
Lawyers for the former German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, have launched legal action aimed at preventing the publication of transcripts of his telephone conversations recorded by the communist East German secret police, the Stasi.

The government agency now in charge of the Stasi files wants to release those it considers to be of historical interest.


The documents were obtained in a manner that violated his human rights

Kohl lawyer Stephan Holthoff-Pfoertner
But Mr Kohl's lawyers say the information on the former chancellor was gathered illegally.

Mr Kohl is currently under investigation in connection with illegal donations he accepted on behalf of his Christian Democratic party (CDU). He has consistently refused to say who gave the money, and there is intense speculation about what the Stasi files might reveal.

Scandal

Mr Kohl is suspected of influence-peddling, following his admission last year that he took $1m in illegal campaign donations from anonymous contributors.

He has denied any wrongdoing, saying he used the money to build up the CDU in eastern Germany. He has refused to name the donors.

Stasi documents in sacks
The Stasi's information filled millions of files

The Stasi is believed to have bugged Mr Kohl's offices and tapped his telephone conversations from the time he became chancellor in 1982.

His lawyers say the Stasi documents resulted from "a serious violation of human dignity through criminal activity". They say they have asked the Berlin administrative court to forbid the authority managing the Stasi archives making such documents available to third parties.

Under the laws governing the files Mr Kohl was given until last August to view the documents before those relating to his role as a historical figure were to be released. Personal material was not to be included.

The authority managing the archives recently ordered him to complete his review by 31 December, so that his file could be opened. He has responded with legal action.

Investigators into the CDU party finance affair have already ruled out using the files themselves as evidence in their attempt to discover whether Mr Kohl operated a shady cash-for-favours policy.

Stasi haul

Documents which came to light after the collapse of the East German state in 1989 showed Stasi agents had huge amounts of material from wiretaps on nearly 100 phone lines in Mr Kohl's offices. They produced 9,000 pages of records on him.

In West Germany as a whole, East German agents had taps on about 100,000 telephones.

Mr Kohl's lawyers and members of parliament have warned the tapes may not only contain private material obtained illegally but may also have been manipulated by the Stasi, making them unreliable.

But the former East German spymaster Markus Wolf says the files contain enough information to bring the criminal inquiry into Mr Kohl's actions to a rapid conclusion.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | Europe
Fresh blow for Germany's CDU
10 Apr 00 | Europe
Stasi recordings threaten Kohl
20 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Fearsome Stasi held nation in its grip
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