BERLIN (Oct. 22)
A German politician may end up in jail over irregular funding for a campaign flier that critics call anti-Semitic.
Jurgen Mollemann resigned Sunday as leader of the Free Democratic Party in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia after allegations about the flier surfaced.
Mollemann is facing an investigation over funding for the flier, which he had printed and distributed to 1 million residents in his home state at a cost of nearly $1 million.
The controversial flier, issued days before the Sept. 22 federal elections, described Mollemann as a longtime supporter of both Israel and a Palestinian state.
The flier then repeated Mollemann’s past accusations against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and German Jewish leader Michel Friedman.
It criticized Sharon’s policies and accused Friedman, a vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, of defending Sharon and trying to label Mollemann “as ‘anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic.’ “
The flier also urged voters to support Mollemann by voting for the Free Democrats.
Mollemann, who long has expressed sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers, roiled Germany earlier this year when he said Friedman helped provoke anti-Semitism by his manner and behavior.
In September, facing allegations that his anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian positions were responsible for the Free Democrats’ poor electoral showing in the national elections, Mollemann resigned as the party’s national vice president.
Following the allegations, Mollemann has only a matter of days to reveal the names of contributors who helped fund the flier. If he fails to comply, he may face a jail term of up to three years.
To some, the campaign finance scandal is secondary to the uproar caused by the fliers themselves, which led the leader of the Free Democrats, Guido Westerwelle, to distance himself from Mollemann in the last days of the election campaign.
Journalist Henryk Broder, who reprinted Mollemann’s flier on his Web site, wrote that no other world conflict would serve the politician’s purposes as well as the Mideast conflict, “because there have to be Jews there in order to make” Mollemann’s “blood boil.”
Investigators say the account set up to fund the flier contains mostly anonymous donations, which is illegal according to laws governing political parties.
If the sources of funding are not revealed, the funds must be turned over to the president of the lower house of Parliament, Wolfgang Thierse.
Mollemann, who is recovering from a heart problem in the Canary Islands, criticized his party leaders but gave no hint of when or if he would clear up the mystery of the donors.
He accused Westerwelle and party treasurer Gunther Rexrodt of seeking his downfall rather than caring for the future of the party.
Rexrodt told the German Press Agency that the bank account for the fliers had contained some $800,000, mostly from anonymous donors.
Of some 145 donor signatures, only a few could be deciphered. The 11 individuals who have been reached have denied that they made contributions.
Rexrodt also said a prosecutor in North Rhine-Westphalia would soon announce the results of a judicial investigation into the case.
Meanwhile, the honorary chairman of the Free Democrats, Otto Graf Lambsdorff, made a reference to Mollemann’s past expressions of sympathy for Palestinian terrorists, calling him a suicide bomber against his party and his own ambitions.
Lambsdorff, who was the government representative in negotiations to provide reparations to Nazi-era slave and forced laborers, also told a radio station that Mollemann has “used every chance he got to blow himself up politically.”