Indian-origin ex-Member of Parliament Sebastian Edathy will stand trial in a German court on charges of acquiring and possessing child pornography. The regional court in Verden in the state of Lower Saxony said on Tuesday that after examining the indictment against him filed by prosecutors four months ago, it came to the conclusion that there are enough evidences to open proceedings on child pornography charges.
The court decided that the trial will get underway on February 23 and it may last for nine days. If found guilty, Edathy, 44, could face up to two years in jail or a fine.
The state prosecutor's office in Hannover charged that Edathy had downloaded child pornography photos and videos on seven occasions in November last year, using his official laptop of the Bundestag, the lower house of German parliament.
Edathy, who was born in Hannover as the son of a migrant from Kerala and a German mother, is also accused of possessing an illustrated book and a CD containing child pornography material.
Investigators were able to reconstruct his computer's links to child pornography sites by analysing the metadata stored on a large server of the Bundestag, the prosecutor's office said.
Since the child pornography allegations against him surfaced in February, Edathy repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He admitted that he possessed nude photos and videos of under aged children, but claimed that they were not classified as child pornography under the German law.
Edathy, a former home affairs spokesman of the Social Democratic Party, rose to prominence after successfully chairing a parliamentary enquiry committee, which investigated a string of nine racially-motivated murders committed by a neo-Nazi gang between 2000 and 2007.
He became a member of the influential managing committee of the SPD parliamentary group two years after entering the Bundestag in 1998 and served as the chairman of the Germany-India parliamentary group during 2003-2007.
He was widely expected to grab a top job in the new ‘grand coalition’ formed by the SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats after the parliamentary election in September, last year.
However, Edathy laid down his seat in the Bundestag on February 7, just days before the prosecutor's office in Hannover opened an investigation against him and raided his residences on suspicion of involvement in child pornography.
In his first reaction to the court order to stand trial, Edathy said on his Facebook site that he will explain his position at a news conference in Berlin on December 18. In the aftermath of the allegations against Edathy, the Bundestag last week passed a new legislation to tighten the country's laws concerning child pornography by banning the use of photos and videos of naked children for commercial purposes.
Image: Indian-origin ex-Member of Parliament Sebastian Edathy. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters