The Strobl affair is now really gaining momentum: the minister will have to face a committee of inquiry. The opposition even sees the rule of law in danger. Against the allegations, the CDU politician gets prominent protection.
Stuttgart (dpa / lsw) - It is one of those days when events roll over: The state parliament will work up the affair surrounding Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU) and a lawyer's letter he pierced in a committee of inquiry. The factions of the SPD and FDP decided on Tuesday - the government factions cannot prevent the establishment of the committee despite the majority. The committee is also to look into promotion practices and the issue of sexual harassment in the police force. The Greens and the CDU have already agreed to take part in the investigation. The topic should already be debated in the state parliament on Wednesday. Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann described the Strobl affair on Tuesday as a "political burden".
Meanwhile, the CDU minister has obtained prominent support and commissioned a report from the well-known media lawyer Christian Schertz. He cannot establish any criminal misconduct on the part of Strobl. He even speaks of an "absurd scandalization of Strobl's behavior". The opposition speaks of a "complimentary report".
Deputy Prime Minister Strobl is under massive pressure because he forwarded a letter from a high-ranking police officer's lawyer to a journalist. The official is being investigated for sexual harassment and has been suspended from work. In the letter, the lawyer for the police officer offered the top executive a personal interview with the accused officer. Strobl saw it as a "poisoned offer". By forwarding the letter to a journalist, he wanted to ensure "maximum transparency" and prevent the other side from launching the letter and being accused of cheating.
The opposition accuses Strobl of having broken several laws by passing it on - and has been calling for the deputy prime minister to be fired for weeks. After Strobl admitted that the letter had been passed on at the beginning of May, the public prosecutor's office initiated investigations into suspected illegal disclosure of court hearings. The top data protection officer in the country, Stefan Brink, has also opened a procedure - according to a test procedure, Strobl violated the law by passing on the letter to Brink. So now the state parliament should work up the whole affair in a committee of inquiry. The AfD parliamentary group announced on Tuesday that it wanted to support the committee of inquiry.
Committees of inquiry are seen as Parliament's strongest means of controlling the government. Even small factions of the opposition can use it to scrutinize possible grievances or affairs. The committee can request files from the authorities, obtain information and obtain seizure and search warrants from the court. Witnesses and experts must appear, false statements are punishable. The government factions cannot block the appointment, but can reject the title, for example. It is questionable whether they will support the title "abuse of power" proposed by the FDP and SPD.
FDP faction leader Hans-Ulrich Rülke described the U-committee as inevitable. In the interior committee, information has so far been refused and files have been blacked out. "It was clouded over," said Rülke. The committee of inquiry must exert pressure so that the separation of powers works again and the judiciary can do its job. SPD parliamentary group leader Andreas Stoch said that the committee of inquiry would probably last until next year. It will be seen whether the first witnesses can be questioned before the summer break. Rülke said he would "under no circumstances" rule out inviting the prime minister himself as a witness.
According to their own statements, the Greens and the CDU want to take part in the investigation. "Of course, our parliamentary group will also take part in a fair and transparent processing of the events and contribute to the investigation in a committee of inquiry," said the parliamentary manager of the Greens parliamentary group, Daniel Lede Abal. The parliamentary director of the CDU parliamentary group, Andreas Deuschle, said that the committee would be approached "calmly, calmly and of course constructively".
The opposition's right to appoint a committee is respected, said Deuschle. But it is also clear that a committee of inquiry is an important instrument for serious investigation and not for "cheap sensationalism". "Whatever the specific object of the committee of inquiry is: We will clarify the issue properly and not let ourselves be infected by the hysteria and the oppositional market clamor of the SPD and FDP."
Media lawyer Schertz, privately involved in the matter by Strobl, is backing his client. "There is no misconduct of any kind on the part of the minister," Schertz wrote in a report that he presented to the public on Tuesday. Strobl clearly acted within the scope of his competencies and was even authorized under the state press law to pass on information to the journalists, it said. The allegations against the high-ranking police officer are "of the highest public interest". SPD parliamentary group leader Andreas Stoch then spoke of a courtesy report. Schertz is neither a proven expert in criminal law nor in administrative or data protection law.
Prime Minister Kretschmann, who has always backed his Interior Minister, spoke for the first time on Tuesday about a "political burden" in connection with the affair. "Of course it takes energy and time to deal with it," said the Green politician on Tuesday. "Whether there's something to it, that's being determined." If the SPD and FDP now want to set up a committee of inquiry, that is their right. Care will be taken to ensure that government action is not affected. Kretschmann announced that he no longer wanted to comment on the allegations against Strobl. "You won't get any more comments from me."
"The MP sees nothing, hears nothing and says nothing," criticized SPD interior expert Sascha Binder. "It is high time that Parliament clarified."