Man who slapped Schroederis Social Democrat member

19th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

19 May 2004 , BERLIN - The man who slapped Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at an election rally is a jobless member of German leader's own Social Democratic Party, officials confirmed Wednesday. The 52-year-old man, who was overpowered by guards after slapping Schroeder in the face at a Mannheim campaign stop, is an unemployed teacher who joined the Social Democrats (SPD) last February. Schroeder was not injured in the attack and police released the man after several hours of questioning. SPD leaders vowed to

19 May 2004

BERLIN - The man who slapped Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at an election rally is a jobless member of German leader's own Social Democratic Party, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The 52-year-old man, who was overpowered by guards after slapping Schroeder in the face at a Mannheim campaign stop, is an unemployed teacher who joined the Social Democrats (SPD) last February.

Schroeder was not injured in the attack and police released the man after several hours of questioning. SPD leaders vowed to expel the assailant and chancellery officials said they would press assault charges.

Police said they had not been able to identify a motive for the attack and that the assailant had no previous police record.

Schroeder's chief spokesman, Bela Anda, said there were no plans to alter security around the German leader despite the incident.

German politicians have bodyguards from a federal police unit but the level of protection is far less obtrusive than in countries like the United States.

"It's about finding the right balance between getting close (to people) and keeping distance," said Anda.

Nevertheless, Germany's interior ministry said there would be a probe into why bodyguards failed to prevent the attack.

Last December during a visit to China, Schroeder's security detail was criticised for letting an eager crowd jostle the chancellor during a visit to the Canton trade fair.

Popularity of Schroeder's SPD has plunged to record lows due to anger over German social welfare cuts, the sickly economy and unemployment which remains stuck at almost 11 percent.

Anda told reporters what he termed "verbal aggression" could play a role in triggering such violence. "That's the big lesson here," he said.

There have been a series of attacks on German politicians over the past decade.

In 1990, the SPD premier of Germany's Saar state, Oskar Lafontaine was knifed by a deranged woman at an election rally and a few months later German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was shot by a mentally disturbed man.

Lafontaine recovered from stab wounds, but Schaeuble has been confined to a wheelchair since the attack.

Former chancellor Helmut Kohl fought back when eggs, tomatoes and paint-bombs were thrown at him in 1991. The hefty Kohl rushed his assailants and tried to punch them. Only the combined efforts of several bodyguards held the angry Chancellor back.

Kohl was hit again by eggs in a second attack in 1996.

In 1999 German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer suffered inner ear injuries after being hit by a paint bomb at a party congress of his Greens party.

Another senior Greens member, defence policy spokeswoman Angelika Beer, was stabbed and slightly injured in Berlin in 2000.

 

 DPA

Subject: German news

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