08. Juli 2013
Gustl Mollath’s defence lawyer is under investigation for supposedly publishing court documents. For Mollath, who some allege is being falsely imprisoned by German authorities in a psychiatric hospital, this is another episode in his long saga.
Publicity for Gustl Mollath
Gustl Mollath’s case has enjoyed widespread publicity throughout Germany. Indeed publicity forms part of Mollath’s defence team’s strategy. The team is well aware of the benefit of keeping a large criminal case in the lime light.
But that publicity has taken a knock amid accusations that Mollath’s defence lawyer has crossed a line by publishing 32 documents from Gustl Mollath’s court proceedings on the internet.
One-year prison sentence
The state prosecutors’ investigations are based on a somewhat obscure paragraph of the German criminal code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB).
Paragraph 353 d no. 3 prohibits the publication of charge sheets and other official documents from criminal proceedings. A person who breaches this prohibition can face a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.
However, the catalyst for the investigations is not the publication of documents produced by the defence team, but of documents produced by state prosecutors.
They include Augsburg state prosecutor’s original application to stay criminal proceedings against Mollath and Regensburg state prosecutor’s application to reopen the case.
State prosecutors of Hamburg, who are leading the investigations, believe that such actions fall within the definition contained in § 353 d no. 3 StGB.
Mollath’s defence lawyer denies illegality
Mollath’s defence lawyer disputes that his actions are punishable under German criminal law.
He argues that § 353d no. 3 StGB applies to criminal proceedings which are in progress and not to those criminal proceedings which are already completed; and he asserts that the documents are part of past criminal proceedings and therefore are not relevant to the current proceedings. He therefore contends that the publication of the documents is not illegal.
Attempt to seize server
Meanwhile the county court in Hamburg-Mitte refused to grant state prosecutors permission to seize Mollath’s defence lawyer’s server (27.06.2013, Az.: 166 Gs 377/13). In its refusal the court adopted Mollath’s defence lawyer’s argument.
It therefore seems unlikely that criminal proceedings will be brought against the defence lawyer; but it cannot be ruled out entirely.
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