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Ex-German president rejects trial halt

A Hannover court hearing corruption claims against German ex-president Christian Wulff has warned that the case is "so far unproven." For different reasons, the prosecution and defense reject the trial's termination.

Judge Frank Rosenow said on Thursday he could complete his hearing by January, three months earlier than scheduled, adding that the court had not yet heard any "criminally relevant evidence" in testimony from 20 witnesses.

Rosenow also suggested termination of the trial on the condition that Wulff and a co-defendant pay fines to charity. Thursday marked the eighth day of proceedings in the Regional Court of Hannover.

Wulff denies accepting favors

Wulff, 54 and a one-time conservative rising star in German politics, denies accepting favors totaling about 700 euros ($956), including hotel accommodation, from a film producer friend when they jointly visited Munich in 2008.

At the time, Wulff was premier of Lower Saxony state of which Hannover is the regional capital.

Wulff became German president in 2010. Public disquiet and news of his pending prosecution prompted Wulff's resignation in February 2012.

Both sides want continuation

On Thursday, state attorney Clemens Eimterbäumer said the prosecution doubted statements made so far by Wulff and film producer David Groenewold.

Eimterbäumer said there was sufficient evidence that Wulff had knowingly allowed himself to be invited by Groenewold.

Wulff's lawyers said Judge Rosenow's interim assessment signaled success for the defense team, which would, however, press ahead in court to clear Wulff's name.

"We will continue to advise our client to fight for an acquittal," said defense lawyer , Bernd Müssig.

Austrian witness testifies

During Thursday's session, an Austrian witness who gave testimony via video link from Insbruck to Hannover, said she could hardly remember Wulff's 2008 visit to Munich's Oktoberfest beer festival.

"I can no longer say who paid at the time. I had so many guests," the witness said.

Before the trial, Wulff, himself a lawyer, declined to settle the case with a fine and vowed to clear his name in court. He is the only post-war German head of state to face trial.

ipj/jlw (AFP, dpa)