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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK
Kohl challenges Stasi disclosure law
Helmut Kohl
Kohl wants to keep his Stasi files away from prying eyes
Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl says he will continue to fight the release of files gathered on him by the former East German secret police - hours after parliament allowed access to them.


If necessary we will go all the way to the constitutional court

Mr Kohl's lawyer
On Friday the upper house of Germany's parliament approved a law granting the final say on releasing papers to the agency set up to oversee the archives.

The legislation overturns a federal court ruling in Mr Kohl's favour, which had said a public figure's files could be released only with that person's consent.

Researchers are keen to see Mr Kohl's secret police records, which they hope could shed light on a financing scandal that has damaged his reputation and that of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Privacy

The law - which has already been approved by the lower house of the German parliament - is expected to take effect next week.

People observe bags of Stasi files
There are 180km (113 miles) of Stasi files
It grants researchers and journalists access to the files gathered by the communist-era secret police, the Stasi, on public figures.

The person whose papers are being requested must be informed and given the right to lodge a protest before their release.

Files that are determined to have been obtained through measures that violate human rights, such as eavesdropping and interception of letters, will not be released.

However Mr Kohl's lawyers says the former chancellor will continue his legal battle to prevent access to his Stasi 2,500-page files under any circumstances.

"If necessary we will go all the way to the constitutional court," lawyer Stephan Holthoff-Pfoertner said, referring to the country's highest court.

Scandal

In March, a federal court barred the release of Mr Kohl's Stasi files.

The federal administrative court in Berlin - confirming a earlier court ruling - said releasing the documents would violate the former chancellor's privacy.

Ordinary Germans' records have always been open - except those regarding their private lives.

In 2000 Mr Kohl admitted collecting illegal donations for the CDU during his 16 years as chancellor, but he has refused to give details.

Although criminal charges against were dropped last year, the scandal has blighted the reputation of one of Europe's longest-serving post-war leaders.

See also:

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