BERLIN: A German former lawmaker Monday agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,600) and admit guilt on child pornography charges in exchange for a court halting his high-profile trial.
The case against Sebastian Edathy, formerly a high-flying MP known for fighting far-right extremists, had triggered a major political scandal that led to the resignation of a cabinet minister.
Edathy, 45, admitted to the charges through a statement read out by his lawyer and expressed regret, paving the way for the court proceedings to be stopped. He will have no criminal record.
The payment will go to a child protection association.
Edathy went on trial in the northern town of Verden a week ago, accused of downloading images and video files featuring child pornography onto his work laptop in 2013.
He had also been suspected of possessing a book and a CD with pictures which prosecutors said contained illicit material featuring minors.
“In the criminal case against Sebastian Edathy on possession of child pornography, the proceedings… are stopped,” the judge, Juergen Seifert, said Monday, the second day of the trial.
“The accused in the end…. admitted his wrongdoing in front of the entire German public,” he said.
The judge also said that child pornography was a “grave crime” and that without a market for it, the images would not be produced.
“However every human being, Mr Edathy too, deserves a second chance,” he added.
Edathy looked visibly relieved when the proceedings were halted.
“I’ve realised in the meantime that I made a mistake,” he said in the statement read out by his lawyer, who later said the case should never have been allowed to end up in court.
Edathy was an MP for the Social Democrats, partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right coalition government.
He resigned from his Bundestag seat citing health reasons in February 2014, just days before it emerged that his home and offices had been searched.
The case sparked political turbulence at the start of Merkel’s third term, with the subsequent resignation of conservative agriculture minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, under pressure over suspicions he leaked confidential information about the probe while serving previously as interior minister.
Edathy gained prominence for heading a parliamentary panel into the shock 2011 discovery of a neo-Nazi killer cell.
His case also touched off a debate in Germany about child pornography laws, which saw the Bundestag approve reforms to sex crimes legislation, including the tightening of rules on pictures of naked children and minors.