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Germany

Speakers Criticize Liberal Party at Disgraced Politician's Funeral

Thousands came to mourn the death of former politician Jürgen W. Möllemann on Friday. But few of his former Free Democratic Party colleagues were among them.

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Jürgen W. Möllemann's fellow parachutists carried him to the grave on Friday.

Six parachutists carried Jürgen W. Möllemann's coffin to his grave in Münster on Friday, nine days after the former army parachutist died during a jump.

As rumors continued to swirl as to whether the disgraced former politician's death was a suicide, around 120 invited guests came to the ceremony, while 2,000 people gathered at his coffin before the funeral. President Johannes Rau, the German government and Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse sent wreaths.

Members of the disgraced politician's former party, Germany's liberal Free Democrats, were conspicuously absent but still reaped criticism for the way they dealt with their former colleague.

"I want to make clear that Jürgen Möllemann did more for our community and the FDP than those who cast doubt on his personal integrity," said the Kiel FDP parliamentary group leader Wolfgang Kubicki while fighting back tears at the ceremony. He thanked former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher for being the only top FDP politician to attend the funeral.

Möllemann's widow had asked the FDP leadership not to come to the burial and ruled out a state funeral for the colorful but scandal-ridden politician. The prospect had not appeared likely to begin with.

Gerhard Rehberg, the head of the Gelsenkirchen soccer club Schalke 04, on whose supervisory board Möllemann had served since 1984, said the politician's death was "a serious warning that people should not be dealt with personally or politically as had been done with Möllemann."

Once a star

Jürgen Möllemann mit Fallschirm, Porträt

Jürgen Möllemann in the colors of the FDP.

Once the Free Democratic Party's star, the 57-year-old former deputy leader's career took a dramatic turn for the worse in 2002. Möllemann, who maintained close relations with officials in Arab states, came under fire when he criticized Israel and German Jewish leaders in flyers distributed during the parliamentary election campaign in 2002.

The FDP held Möllemann responsible for its poor election returns in September, and accusations of anti-Semitism were followed by allegations in October that he had maintained party slush funds to the amount of €1.5 million ($1.48 million).

In mid-March, Möllemann resigned from the FDP -- though he retained his parliamentary seat -- and suggested he might start a new party. But his credibility had already been hard hit. Just hours before Möllemann's death on June 5, the German Bundestag revoked his parliamentary immunity, and state investigators searched his home and office. They suspected Möllemann of fraud and tax evasion.

Police continue to investigate in every direction

Police have not yet been able to determine whether Möllemann's death was an accident or suicide, the theory held by many in Germany. Witnesses reported that Möllemann's parachute cut away from his body after he opened it. A back-up parachute was not opened and he plunged to his death from a height of around 800 meters (2,600 feet).

The local prosecutor said he is continuing to explore every possiblity. Those around Möllemann before his death said that he didn't show any signs of depression.

Möllemann was the finance minister and deputy chancellor in former Chancellor Helmut Kohl' s government until 1993. He was the father of three adult daughters.

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