GERMANY: Plagiarism claims mount for ex-minister

With an intensive investigation almost concluded, Bavaria's University of Bayreuth now claims that ex-minister of defence Karl Theodor Zu Guttenberg (pictured) must have copied parts of his doctoral thesis. But Zu Guttenberg continues to deny wilful deceit.

Zu Guttenberg was stripped of his doctoral title and stepped down from office early last month, in the midst of a national controversy over alleged plagiarism that divided German opinion.

Although he has persistently denied wilful deceit, the disgraced baron did apologise in public for "mistakes" he had made and, on resigning, pledged that it was in his "sincere interest to help clarify issues" regarding his doctoral thesis.

This, Zu Guttenberg stressed, applied both to the work of a special commission appointed by the University of Bayreuth to examine the thesis and to criminal investigation proceedings instigated by the public prosecutor's office in Hof, Bavaria.

The university commission, whose members also include people from outside Bayreuth, has concluded that, given the extent and type of plagiarism Zu Guttenberg's thesis contains, he can only have been acting with intent.

Experts examining the thesis are particularly suspicious of entire pages that appear to have been copied from material that is provided to parliamentarians for 'inside' use. They allege that Zu Guttenberg couldn't possibly have been unaware of what he was doing.

Bayreuth University's President Rüdiger Bormann said that "the public is taking a considerable interest in how the university is assessing the incident", and announced that his institution intended to publish the results of the commission's investigation, also with regard to wilful deceit. The university has stressed that it wishes the issue to be discussed in public.

However, Zu Guttenberg's lawyers recently issued a statement objecting to any findings being made public.

Formally, Zu Guttenberg is no longer a member of the university, and neither does he bear a title from the institution. This would suggest that the university no longer has any right to make public statements about his personal conduct.

But Bormann insisted that zu Guttenberg withdraw his objections and "support the establishment of comprehensive information" - which was what the baron originally promised.

Now Zu Guttenberg's lawyers have stated that he accepts the publishing of the final report. His original objections, they claimed, referred to parts of it being published ahead of the university commission's investigation being completed.

Meanwhile, it appears that the public prosecutor's office in Hof could drop the case for "lack of public interest". The office is said to be reviewing similar cases to identify judicial precedent that would warrant such action.

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