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article imageLawmakers and bloggers named in German treason case

By AFP     Aug 7, 2015 in World

Germany's domestic spy agency named not just bloggers but also lawmakers in a criminal complaint that sparked a controversial treason probe, news weekly Der Spiegel said Friday.

The intelligence agency in its complaint "directed attention to members of parliament" and "explicitly names" a nine-member panel, said an excerpt of an article from Saturday's edition.

News of Germany's first media treason investigation in over half a century -- which targets the blog (Net politics) for publishing the agency's Internet surveillance plans -- has sparked a storm of press freedom protests.

In the widening scandal, Justice Minister Heiko Maas distanced himself from chief prosecutor Harald Range and, following a public spat, sacked him on Tuesday.

Questions of state surveillance, including the NSA scandal revealed by fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, are hotly debated in Germany, a country with raw memories of snooping by fascist and communist dictatorships.

The blog's journalists, Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister, have demanded the probe against them be scrapped once and for all.

"The investigation still hasn't been stopped and it is still hanging like a Sword of Damocles over our heads," Beckedahl told Berlin public radio.

Der Spiegel reported that the intelligence agency in its complaint "against persons unknown" named not just the bloggers but also a parliamentary panel that had access to the leaked documents.

The agency, known as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in March and April letters to police seen by AFP that the blog report in large parts matches "word for word" a paper it had prepared for the parliamentary panel.

Range, the sacked chief prosecutor, has stuck to his guns after he had openly accused the justice minister of "intolerable" political interference, comments that ended his career.

"I did not want to skulk out the door like a beaten dog but walk out with my head high," the 67-year-old, who had been one year from retirement, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

He said he had felt obliged to pursue a treason case after experts had judged the published documents to be state secrets, telling the daily that he did not want to make himself "liable to criminal charges".

The charge of treason -- to reveal state secrets to the detriment of the nation and to aid a foreign power -- carries between one year and, in very serious cases, life in jail.

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