German justice minister fires top prosecutor for treason probe of bloggers

The Wall Street Journal reports: Germany’s justice minister fired the country’s top prosecutor on Tuesday over the prosecutor’s treason investigation of two prominent bloggers, culminating a dayslong fight among public officials over the limits of press freedom.

The federal prosecutor general, Harald Range, said earlier Tuesday that the government in Berlin was inappropriately trying to block his investigation of the two journalists, who published classified documents on the domestic intelligence service’s plans to expand Internet surveillance.

But Justice Minister Heiko Maas countered hours later that Mr. Range’s claim was wrong. Mr. Maas said the prosecutor had in fact agreed on Friday to suspend the probe pending a legal review by the Justice Ministry. Mr. Maas — who had earlier expressed doubt that the journalists’ actions amounted to treason — said on Tuesday that he and the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed that Mr. Range, who is 67 years old, should give up his post.

“I have let Federal Prosecutor General Range know that my trust in his service has suffered lasting damage,” Mr. Maas told reporters in a brief statement in Berlin. “As agreed with the Chancellery, I will ask the Federal President today to move him into retirement.”

Mr. Maas’s firing of Germany’s top prosecutor — who investigates sensitive terrorism cases and other major crimes — marked a crescendo in a case that has embarrassed Ms. Merkel’s government and touched off debate over how to balance freedom of speech, privacy, and security in the European Union’s most populous country. [Continue reading…]

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