German politician Edathy in child porn trial

Sebastian Edathy on trial in Verden (23 Feb) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Edathy, who denies the charges, appeared in court on Monday in Verden

A former rising star in Germany's Social Democratic Party, Sebastian Edathy, has gone on trial accused of possessing indecent images of children.

If convicted he could be jailed for up to two years or face a fine.

Mr Edathy stood down from parliament a year ago, before the investigation emerged, however he denies wrongdoing.

The case has also prompted a parliamentary inquiry into whether he was tipped off about the police investigation.

Mr Edathy appeared at a district court on Monday in the Lower Saxony town of Verden, south-east of Bremen, facing accusations that he downloaded indecent photos and films of children under the age of 14 on to his government laptop in 2013.

Although he admits buying material from a Canadian company he denies doing anything illegal.

After a short hearing, the case was adjourned until 2 March with a suggestion from the prosecution that if he pleaded guilty it might accept a fine.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Edathy previously headed a parliamentary inquiry into 10 neo-Nazi murders

'Wall of silence'

The murky political nature of the case was underlined by a handful of protesters who appeared outside court, with one placard reading, "Why the wall of silence?"

The Edathy case prompted a scandal for the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in Germany's ruling coalition.

An investigation is under way into whether Mr Edathy was warned by a fellow MP about the police case.

It also led to the resignation of Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich over claims that he had leaked information about the case to the SPD.

During Monday's hearing, Mr Edathy's lawyer called for a halt to the process, arguing that his client could not receive a fair trial - a request turned down by the judge.

In particular, the lawyer cited an investigation into alleged leaks to journalists by a public prosecutor in the Lower Saxony town of Celle, Frank Luettig.

Before he stood down citing health reasons, Mr Edathy, 45, had become an important figure in his party and the Bundestag, chairing a parliamentary inquiry into the authorities' handling of 10 neo-Nazi murders between 2000 and 2007.

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