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Stepping Down

jp/th/dpa/afpMarch 6, 2009

A Social Democrat has resigned as his party's spokesman on media affairs after German police raided his offices and confiscated suspicious material relating to child pornography.

Someone holding photos in their hand
Tauss helped draft child-protection lawsImage: AP

Now under investigation for possession of child pornography, Joerg Tauss resigned from all his political offices to avoid further damage to his party, he said on his Web site on Friday, March 6.

55-year-old Tauss has been a member of the Bundestag since 1994 and has been the SPD's parliamentary spokesman on media affairs, research and education.

A former union leader, he is also SPD secretary general in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

"I want to avert any negative repercussions for the party this investigation might have," he said.

Although he has laid down these offices, he has retained his parliamentary seat.

Initial suspicions

Joerg Tauss
Tauss said he'll step asideImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Prosecutors said they had launched an investigation into Joerg Tauss because there was "an initial suspicion" of the existence of incriminating pictorial material. However, the spokesman added that Tauss could be "completely innocent."

The politician said he could not understand why the searches of his offices in Berlin and Karlsruhe had taken place, but was not perturbed about the outcome.

"I have been concerned with the scene for years," Tauss said. He said he could not say whether this might an act of revenge.

"I am certain that we are going to clear up these accusations," he told German TV news channel ntv.

The investigation

Tauss is suspected of having received and transmitted pornographic images of children electronically.

According to Spiegel Online, prosecutors found two cell phone numbers used by him in the possession of another man under investigation for child pornography.

The report said the pair was in contact a total of 23 times. Tauss is alleged to have sent the other man a short video via cell phone containing child pornography.

In return, he received a DVD from the man, Spiegel Online said.

Another office used by Tauss in his electoral district in Karlsruhe was also searched after a parliamentary panel lifted his immunity.

Innocent until proven guilty

As the SPD's media expert, part of Tauss' job was to fight online child pornography. He implied that that he might have been the victim of some kind of intrigue. His colleagues within the Social Democratic Party said the accusations needed to be addressed calmly.

"This needs to be cleared up," said Ute Vogt, the chairwoman of Tauss's regional party association in southwestern Germany. "Until then we must presume that he is innocent."

Nonetheless, she welcomed his resignation. "Given the accusations against him, we respect this move," she said on Friday.

Tauss has been subject to unfounded accusations in the past.

Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that he was accused of tax evasion two years ago after an anonymous complaint was filed. The allegations were not found to have any basis.