Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced he was seeking the dismissal of Harald Range hours after the chief federal prosecutor accused the government of interfering in his investigation.
Mr Range last week suspended an investigation intonetzpolitik.org while he awaited an independent expert opinion on whether articles the website had published about plans to step up state surveillance of online communications amounted to revealing state secrets.
He said he would name Munich’s chief public prosecutor, Peter Frank, as Mr Range’s successor.
BERLIN (AP) – A treason investigation against two German journalists claimed its first casualty Tuesday – the country’s top prosecutor who ordered the probe.
Government overreach has become a hotly debated issue in the wake of revelations about the US National Security Agency’s mass surveillance activities and the extent of German complicity in them.
Germany’s justice minister on Tuesday fired the chief prosecutor in an escalating row sparked by a controversial treason case against a blog accused of revealing state secrets. But this freedom is not limitless, even on the Internet.
The treason probe was widely criticized and regarded as an embarrassment to the government. “Exerting influence on the investigation just because of its possible consequences, which might not be politically opportune, is an unacceptable attack against the independence of the judiciary”, he told journalists in Karlsruhe, southwest Germany.
The most high-profile case occurred in 1962, when an investigation against the weekly magazine Der Spiegel prompted street demonstrations and the resignation of five Cabinet members in protest.
The case also made waves overseas, when the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged the probe be stopped, in an open letter to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“The threat of being charged with treason has a clear general chilling effect on journalists engaged in investigative reporting”, OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic wrote.
“It’s the judiciary’s task to monitor compliance with the law, but it can only fulfil this task if it is free from political interference and that’s why the constitution protects the independence of the judiciary, as well as the freedom of the press and of expression”, he added.