Resignation of hans-joachim grote: something is not right

In Kiel’s state parliament, a committee is looking into the forced resignation of Hans-Joachim Grote as Interior Minister of Schleswig-Holstein.

They were still working together then: Daniel Gunther and Hans-Joachim Grote in November 2018 Photo: dpa

The forced resignation of Interior Minister Hans-Joachim Grote (CDU) in mid-April shook the political Kiel – and leaves questions about the relationship between police, prosecutors and politics in Schleswig-Holstein unanswered to this day. Above all, it is irritating how Prime Minister Daniel Gunther withdrew confidence and the post from his party colleague. "Normally, one would put forward a health burden, thank the minister for his work, and no one would ask further," says SPD faction leader Ralf Stegner. "But a lot of energy is being put into trying to destroy Grote’s reputation."

Now the Interior and Legal Affairs Committee of the state parliament has demanded to see those chat histories that the Kiel public prosecutor’s office collected as "bycatch," as it put it, during the investigation against a police unionist – and that contributed to the break with Grote. So far, only summaries prepared by the prosecutor’s office are known. "It would be a great burden for the coalition if it turned out that Grote’s ejection was an overreaction," says Burkhard Peters (Greens). "That would cast a clear shadow on cooperation."

As interior minister, Grote has filled key posts in the police apparatus – Stegner wonders if the resignation could have something to do with that. Grote has also supported the work of the Parliamentary Investigation Committee (PUA), which has been investigating the so-called rocker affair since 2017. The question is how the police deal with mistakes, whether networks have formed at management level and whether investigation files were kept in a legally unclean manner in order to protect a police "source", and how to deal with undercover agents.

Claus Christian-Claussen (CDU), now justice minister, said in February – still as PUA chairman – that he saw police and prosecutors exonerated: There had been violations, but no evidence that the law had been violated. The thesis that the police had "acted on the basis of political pressure, detached from the rules of the rule of law" was not confirmed.

Using smoke candles to get out of a quandary

Kai Dolgner, who sits on the PUA for the SPD, and Burkhard Peters, as a Green part of the Jamaica coalition, disagree. "There is a narrative that this PUA is completely overblown," Peters said. "The other narrative is that we have encountered a problem in dealing with V-people and thus a festering wound in the rule of law." There are to be amendments to the state police law and a motion in the Bundesrat (upper house of parliament) with the aim of rewriting the V-people regulation in the code of criminal procedure.

The rocker affair was triggered by an attack by members of the "Bandidos" on members of the rival "Red Devils" in a fast-food restaurant in Neumunster on January 13, 2010. After the stabbing, police and prosecutors apparently found themselves in a quandary, at least that’s how Dolgner and Peters see it. Because one of the people present at the time had told a police officer a few things about what had happened. A confidential conversation – yet "this whistleblower did not have a confidentiality pledge as an informant or V-person for this statement," Dolgner says. "So it was a witness statement."

Peters draws the connection to politics: "The fight against rocker criminality was a matter of the heart for the then Minister of the Interior Klaus Schlie." He sees it as proven that the rocker’s statement was not taken on record, contrary to the legal rules of procedure. There is "obviously at least one untrue and incomplete note in the files," Dolgner also says. The officers who pointed it out were transferred.

Both politicians are convinced that it wasn’t about "doing favors for rockers." But they are disturbed by how the conflict was resolved at the time and how the authorities and those involved are still dealing with the accusations today: "Smoke candles are being thrown," says Dolgner. This also applies to the PUA itself. Criticism is seen as an attack, and instead of admitting to mistakes, it is defended against.

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