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German defense minister cleared of wrongdoing by medical school

Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen may keep the title of doctor, her alma mater has ruled. The Hanover Medical School, where von der Leyen studied, cleared her of plagiarism accusations on Wednesday.

There were some instances of plagiarism in von der Leyen's thesis, said University President Christopher Baum, but not enough evidence of misconduct to void approval for the German defense minister's disseration on obstetrics.

"We're talking about mistakes, not about purposeful wrongdoing," Baum told a press conference, adding that the investigatory panel "decided about half an hour ago, with a clear majority of seven to one, not to revoke the title."

Last September, the crowd-sourced website VroniPlag, which scrutinizes academic papers for uncited quotations, said they had found 27 instances of cheating in von der Leyen's 62-page thesis. The minister has

consistently denied the allegations

, even as more surfaced that she padded her resume with a residency at Stanford University in the United States that never occurred.

Stanford at first reacted by objecting that she had never enrolled at their institution nor gained any qualifications, though it later

also cleared the Defense Minister of misconduct.

Although Chancellor Angela Merkel had said she would "of course" stand by von der Leyen if her dissertation was revoked, it is likely a welcome relief for an administration that has already suffered two similar scandals. In 2011, one of von der Leyen's predecessors, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, had to step down after it was discovered he had lifted sections of his thesis. Two years after that, Education Minister Annette Schavan was forced to resign under similar circumstances.

es/jil (dpa, Reuters)

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