According to officials at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the controversial politically critical column of the “tageszeitung” was not a matter for the prosecutor from the start. This is evidenced by internal Ministry documents, which have now been released for the first time at the request of the Tagesspiegel in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (IFG).
In a ‘Fundamental Rights Assessment’, the ministry’s constitutional division concluded that the statements in the column ‘All agents are incapacitated for work’ by journalist Hengameh Yaghoobifarah should be considered ‘speeches’ and ‘fall under the freedom of the press and the freedom of the arts’ .
“Locally, a criminal conviction is likely to be disproportionate.” In her text, referring to right-wing extremist allegations against police officers, the author considered that they should go to a landfill if the police were to be disbanded one day.
The assessment of Yaghoobifarah’s criminal liability dates back to June 23 and came too late for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU). As reported, he had already announced a criminal complaint in the “Bild-Zeitung” the day before without waiting for further legal assessments.
To this end, Seehofer had filed a draft ad from his ministry’s police department responsible for the subject on June 17 stating that the journalist allegedly committed a crime for sedition. In addition, it was considered at the time to ask the editors of the “taz” Barbara Junge and Katrin Gottschalk for help. However, after the intervention of State Secretary Hans-Georg Engelke, this was abandoned.
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However, at the presentation of the concept on June 18, the police also announced their first doubts: “It cannot be ruled out” that, given the appreciation for the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, the public prosecutor and the court “will came a different assessment ”than the ministry.
There is “the possibility that the article could be viewed as satire and as protected by artistic freedom”. In addition, discretion was requested. With the exception of the ad itself, there should be “no communication” about the process.
Seehofer actually wanted to work at the conference of the interior ministers
Such objections apparently mattered little to Horst Seehofer. According to the documents, he planned the large public allowance at the conference of interior ministers in Erfurt. At the press conference at the end of the event on Friday afternoon, June 19, he wanted to appear before the journalists and announce his plan. Immediately afterwards, the criminal complaint must be forwarded to the Berlin prosecutor’s office.
Seehofer asked his officials in Berlin for a “good, legally indisputable” speech form. It was delivered quickly. In it, Yaghoobifarah is accused of inciting hatred, as required by the crime of sedition: the column is an “attack on all police officers”. The author places the law enforcement officers in a “fascist, violence-glorifying context” and subordinates them to “National Socialist and terrorist connections and motivations”.
However, the planned announcement was not made in Erfurt. The reasons are not known. The boss took a different path, which apparently came as a surprise to ministry officials: In the following Monday’s “Bild” newspaper, Seehofer said he would “file a criminal complaint tomorrow, as federal interior minister. against the columnist for the unspeakable article “.
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Moments later, after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), he decided not to do this, probably also in view of the new “fundamental rights assessment” of his department responsible for him. This should explain why, immediately after the publication of the “Bild” article, Seehofer’s spokesman repeatedly stated that no decision had yet been taken on a complaint, despite the Minister’s firm statement.
It was never an insult – Seehofer knew that
Nevertheless, Seehofer got a press release postponed a few days later, in which he continued to give the impression that he believed that Yaghoobifarah had made himself susceptible to prosecution. You have “fulfilled criminal offenses,” it says. Objectively wrong about this is the plural. In addition to inciting hatred, the ministry’s lawyers had ruled out any possible insult from the outset – as Seehofer was also called.
The wording as such also remains ambiguous. From a purely legal point of view, she leaves it open whether Yaghoobifarah should be a criminal from the point of view of the minister. Because even when criminal offenses are committed, acts can be justified and thus unpunished – for example through freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of art. Seehofer simply does not point this out.
Originally the ministry did not want to make the file public
Yaghoobifarah’s lawyer sees this as a public prejudice. And it looks like this must also be the outcome of the minister’s entire procedure, including the announcement about the “Bild”. The choice of medium was particularly criticized at a federal government press conference because the “Bild” is regularly reprimanded by the press council for his coverage.
The file is released unexpectedly. Originally, the ministry took the view that transparency would be ruled out because it would “thwart the prosecutor’s decision-making” and refused to hand it over to the IFG. As reported, the public prosecutor’s office rejects an investigation, but has not yet officially communicated this. For further clarification, including the Ministry’s public relations work in this case, the Tagesspiegel is pursuing urgent proceedings before the Berlin Administrative Court.