Schroeder wins ban of assassination novel

21st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

21 June 2004 , HAMBURG - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won Monday an outright ban against a novel in which a disgruntled shopkeeper assassinates a chancellor who, while fictitious, is almost a carbon copy of the real Social Democratic leader. Two months ago, a court ordered a cover picture altered so the man in the target hairs did not look like Schroeder. This time Hamburg's State Superior Court decided that the whole book was in breach of Schroeder's human entitlement to respect as an individual. I

21 June 2004

HAMBURG - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won Monday an outright ban against a novel in which a disgruntled shopkeeper assassinates a chancellor who, while fictitious, is almost a carbon copy of the real Social Democratic leader.

Two months ago, a court ordered a cover picture altered so the man in the target hairs did not look like Schroeder. This time Hamburg's State Superior Court decided that the whole book was in breach of Schroeder's human entitlement to respect as an individual.

It said the book portrayed him as a "thing" to be killed, and portrayed this as an act of liberation rather than as a crime.

Judges said it was also conceivable the book might lower the threshold for a reader who hated Schroeder to contemplate murder.

But Dietrich Reinhardt, chief executive of tiny publisher Betzel, denounced the ruling as "100 percent censorship by the powerful".

The author of the book, "The End of the Chancellor: Shooting in Self-Defence", goes by the pseudonym Reinhard Liebermann. The news magazine Focus has reported he is a journalist. Betzel's book has had only minute sales after an initial print run of 1,000.

Schroeder may have decided to go after the book more aggressively after a man slapped his face in Mannheim last month. The 52-year-old attacker, who has not held down a job for some years and voiced eccentric political views to reporters, is free awaiting trial.

Judges said in Hamburg the book could not be sold "as long as the planning and committing of the murder of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are portrayed in the text".

It said the story was a serious breach of Schroeder's human rights that could not be justified by the freedom of artistic creation. It was also possible the book would increase the physical danger of the chancellor.

"It cannot be ruled out that a politically dissatisfied reader of the book might be prompted by the story to contemplate an assassination as a way of solving the problem," judges added.

The chancellor in the Betzel book is surnamed Winzling, but otherwise closely resembles Schroeder.

In the story, drugstore proprietor Hans Hansmann goes bankrupt because of Germany's economic downturn and blames the chancellor's policies. He shoots Winzling dead during a speech in Hanover, which happens to be where the real chancellor has his home.

Schroeder has lost control of legislation and his party's popularity has fallen to an historic low in the past year amid unease at unemployment and hostility to pro-business policies that the chancellor says Germany needs to end the downturn.

Although Schroeder and senior ministers are accompanied in public by police bodyguards, violence against German politicians is rare.

 DPA

Subject: German news 

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