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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Court lifts ban on Kohl files
Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl wants to protect his "human dignity"
A German court has lifted a ban preventing the release of East German secret police files on the former chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

The adminstrative court in Berlin said that the federal ruling in favour of Mr Kohl in March 2002 was no longer valid under a new law that restored researchers' access to files on public figures gathered by the Stasi.

The case had been brought by Marianne Birthler who heads the agency overseeing the secret police archives of the former communist regime in East Germany.

We have been confirmed in our view that we are able to act under the new law
Marianne Birthler
Ms Birthler had challenged Mr Kohl's arguments that the Stasi files were obtained by illegal wiretaps and that he deserved protection from damage to his "human dignity."

He also claimed the 2,500-page Stasi files on him were bound to be full of false information.

Correspondents, however, say the files are unlikely to become publicly available any time soon, because of possible appeals by Mr Kohl's lawyers.

Finance scandal

Ms Birthler, a former East German dissident, said after the hearing: "We have been confirmed in our view that we are able to act under the new law.

"However there will be no publication as long as there is no binding decision."

German Stasi files
Some Stasi files have already been released
Mr Kohl's lawyer Stephan Holthoff-Pfoertner said he "was not convinced" by the court's reasoning.

He said he would be taking the case to appeal and would not rule out going as high as the federal constitutional court, the highest court in Germany.

Mr Kohl won a case in 2001, which was upheld last year, arguing that because he was a "victim" rather than a collaborator, he was entitled to privacy.

Researchers have been 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).

The law grants researchers and journalists access to the files gathered by the communist-era secret police 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.

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




SEE ALSO:
Kohl wins Stasi files battle
08 Mar 02  |  Europe
Kohl's mark on history
03 Oct 00  |  Europe



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