Police release man who slapped Schroeder
19 May 2004
MANNHEIM – Police have released a man who was detained after slapping Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on the side of the head Tuesday while the German leader was giving autographs.
Schroeder continued his schedule at the Social Democratic Party (SPD) event in the southwestern city of Mannheim, and police said he did not appear to have been cut or bruised from the attack in a city rose garden.
The attacker, a 52-year-old man from the nearby town of Bad Krozingen, but police said he had offered no explanation of why he hit the chancellor and a medical exam of the suspect showed no signs of illness.
He was released Tuesday evening with a police spokesman saying authorities lacked the grounds to hold him.
Witnesses said he slapped Schroeder near the ear. Police bodyguards immediately overpowered the attacker, who was dressed in a suit.
Thomas Steg, the German government’s deputy spokesman, said few people witnessed the incident, but he understood the man had worn a paper armband identifying him as a new SPD member.
Police said they would be studying how the attacker had managed to come so close to the chancellor.
Schroeder had been welcoming new members to the party at the time of the attack and later attended a festival of Europe organized by the Baden-Wuerttemberg state branch of the party.
Modern German leaders keep up a normal lifestyle and mix freely with the public. During public appearances, the chancellor has a squad of armed federal police guarding him and is whisked about by helicopter or armoured limousine.
Last month, Schroeder obtained a court order against a book describing the fictional assassination of a chancellor resembling him. Judges ruled the book was a breach of Schroeder’s human rights and ordered changes so a cover photo no longer resembled Schroeder.
Attacks on politicians in Germany are rare and have mostly happened during electoral campaigns, when politicians are on podiums or shaking hands in the streets, with the attackers generally found to be mentally disturbed.
In 1990, the then-premier of Saarland, Oskar Lafontaine, and then-interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble were attacked. Lafontaine recovered from stab wounds, but Schaeuble lost the movement of his lower body when a bullet grazed his spine.
Former chancellor Helmut Kohl pluckily fought back when eggs, tomatoes and paint-bombs were thrown at him in 1991. Kohl rushed at the assailants and tried to grab them.
Subject: German news