Berlin: An Indian-origin former German lawmaker went on trial on Monday on charges of acquiring and possessing child pornography in a case that triggered a major political scandal leading to the resignation of a cabinet minister.
Sebastian Edathy, 45, a former candidate for a ministerial post in chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative- social democrat coalition government, is accused of downloading child pornography photos and videos on seven occasions in November, 2013 using his official laptop of the Bundestag, the Lower House of Parliament.
Edathy's trial opened today in a state court in the northern town of Verden and the case was adjourned until March 2 to allow the accused and his defence team to discuss a possible admission of guilt, which could open the way for an out-of-court settlement.
The state prosecutor's office in Hannover, which filed a case against him at the regional court in Verden, has also alleged that Edathy was in possession of an illustrated book and a CD containing child pornography material.
The court in the state of Lower Saxony said in a press statement that it has set nine days for the hearing, which will last until April 27 and invited eight witnesses and eight experts to give their evidence.
Edathy, a former home affairs spokesman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), could face up to two years in jail or a fine, if found guilty.
Since the child pornography charges were levelled against him in February, last year, Edathy repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Edathy, who was born in Hannover as the son of a migrant from Kerala and a German mother, admitted that he had downloaded naked photos and videos of under-aged children, but insisted that he did not violate the rules as those material were not classified as child pornography under the German law.
In his first public appearance since February, Edathy told a news conference in Berlin in December that it was a "mistake" to order those photos and videos and he very much regretted doing so, but maintained that "it was legal". ?
However, prosecutors argued that the photos and videos acquired by Edathy also contained material showing children in explicit sexual scenes and therefore they are illegal and liable for punishment.
The case gave early jitters to Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of her third term. Then agriculture minister Hans-Peter Friedrich resigned after coming under pressure over suspicions he leaked confidential information about the probe.