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German chancellor wins court banagainst assassination novel

Published on 15/04/2004

15 April 2004

HAMBURG – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has won a court 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.

Under the order, the small publishing house Betzel must remove a blurred picture on the dust jacket and the title page that appears to show Schroeder’s profile in the telescopic sight of a rifle.

Betzel chief executive Dietrich Reinhardt said the book had already been reprinted with another picture and the court had not interfered with its content.

A print run of 1,000 was planned for “The End of the Chancellor: Shooting in Self-Defence”.

“I suppose it looks like him if you have a bit of imagination,” conceded Reinhardt, who complained at being sued. “We would have changed it if they had just written us a polite letter,” he said.

The reprint had been started after wholesalers warned him there would be court action.

Lawyers representing Schroeder said both the photos and the description of the assassination were a “repulsive” attack on Schroeder’s individual human rights. Although the chancellor in the book is surnamed Winzling, he closely resembles Schroeder.

The author of the book goes by the pseudonym Reinhard Liebermann, but the news magazine Focus said he was in fact a journalist.

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 faced historic lows in popularity in the past year amid public unease at both unemployment and pro-business policies that the chancellor said Germany needs to end the downturn and become more competitive internationally.

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

Subject: German news