Strobl justifies himself in the U-Committee

Stuttgart (dpa / lsw) – Thomas Strobl arrives at the state parliament ten minutes before the start of his appearance before the investigative committee. “I’d rather be at the grape harvest in Heilbronn,” says the Minister of the Interior, looking up at the bright blue sky over Stuttgart. The 62-year-old CDU politician was in serious trouble in May, but the public debate about his role in the so-called police affair calmed down over the summer break. Accordingly, the minister is more relaxed than a few months ago as a witness on Friday in the U-Committee in Stuttgart.

Deceptive Calm? Everyone is waiting for the prosecutor

But can the experienced political professional be sure that he will get through the next few weeks or maybe months in one piece? It could be a deceptive calm. Even the opposition, which is already calling for his resignation in May, knows that in the end it will be the public prosecutor’s office that will decide Strobl’s political fate. The prosecution is investigating the minister because he forwarded a letter from the lawyer of the suspended police inspector to a journalist at the end of December. The highest-ranking police officer is being investigated for sexual harassment. As the accused’s employer, was Strobl allowed to make the letter public?

Two days before Christmas, the fax machine rattled in the Ministry

The letter rattled through the general fax machine of the Interior Ministry on December 22, 2021 at exactly 10:06 p.m., as Strobl explains. The minister has it forwarded to a journalist the next day. Strobl cited the reason again on Friday: the lawyer for the inspector who had already been suspended made him a “poisoned offer”. In the letter, he signaled: “Let’s talk about it, we know each other, we have full trust in each other,” explains Strobl.

“It just had to come out”: Strobl considers the fax to be “extremely dangerous”

He wanted to avoid any suggestion that there could be a “backroom deal”. “There are issues that are non-negotiable and non-debatable.” He decided to give the letter to the journalists and considered the interest of the public to be more important than data protection. The minister admits that he did not obtain a formal legal opinion on it before issuing it. Shortly before Christmas, he feared that the “extremely dangerous letter” would get to the press in other ways and cast a bad light on his house. “It just had to come out. That’s when the clock ticked.”

After the publication of the letter, the public prosecutor’s office becomes active. However, the investigations are soon slowed down by the Ministry of the Interior. If there is a suspicion of a violation of official secrecy, the investigators need authorization from the ministry. The opposition accuses Strobl of obstructing investigations. “Where there is no secret, you cannot tell a secret,” said Strobl on Friday. The allegations of betrayal of secrets and the evasion of criminal prosecution are baseless and malicious. This is already proven by the fact that it went to the general fax address and was therefore potentially accessible to many people.

Prosecutor makes the editor an offer

However, the public prosecutor’s office has been investigating the minister – and the journalist – since the beginning of May. The accusation: He is said to have instigated the journalists of the “Stuttgarter Nachrichten” to quote from the case files. Since the search in the ministry on May 6, the authority has not commented on the cause. But now something new has become known via a detour: According to the editor-in-chief of the “Stuttgarter Nachrichten”, Christoph Reisinger, the public prosecutor’s office offered the editor involved in mid-August to drop the proceedings in return for a monetary payment. However, the editor refused. The editor and his newspaper are of the opinion that he is not guilty of anything in this matter, Reisinger wrote in the “Stuttgarter Nachrichten” on Thursday.

Did the interior minister get a similar offer?

The offer to the editor is also explosive because it now seems conceivable that Strobl has received or could still receive an offer for a deal. On Friday evening, the minister refused to answer the corresponding question from SPD MP Sascha Binder. “In my view, that is an inadmissible question.” This was not covered by the committee’s scope of investigation.

Meanwhile, the “Stuttgarter Nachrichten” wrote that the prosecutors consider the letter from the inspector’s lawyer to the minister to be an official letter. The prosecutor declined to comment. “We are not providing any information at the moment, it is an ongoing process,” said a spokesman when asked by the German Press Agency. It remains unclear whether Strobl also received such an offer from the investigative authority. According to reports, the CDU doubts that the minister can remain in office in this case.

The real affair about the inspector

In his statement, Strobl repeatedly complained that the actual topic of the affair, namely sexual abuse by the police, had lost its focus. In fact, the allegations weigh heavily. The police inspector is said to have sexually harassed a chief inspector and offered her a deal along the lines of “sex for a career”. The woman reported the incident and the inspector is being investigated. He himself has not commented publicly.

One thing is clear: the case is a disaster for the state police. “It’s really bad for the reputation of the police,” Strobl admitted again on Friday. Everyone would have been wrong about the man. He had an excellent reputation in the police force and in the ministry. “I had never heard anything negative about him,” says the minister. At the age of 47, the police officer became the youngest inspector in the country’s history. “Yes, I thought highly of him,” says Strobl. Nevertheless, the election was based on the performance principle. As an inspector, he was also responsible for the values campaign in the state police. Strobl said he was sad and disappointed with the development.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220922-99-862096/8

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