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German plagiarism scandal widens

The European Parliament’s vice president has become the latest among a growing number of high profile German politicians to face allegations that they plagiarised large amounts of other people’s academic work in order to obtain a university doctorate.

The current charges concern Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a well-known German liberal Free Democrat politician and Euro MP who holds the post of European parliamentary vice president. She stands accused of “copying” 25 percent of her doctoral thesis on currency reform obtained in 2000.

Mrs Koch-Mehrin has flatly refused to comment on the allegations which have surfaced less than a month after Germany’s highly popular conservative defence minister, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, was forced to resign his post amid a plagiarism scandal.

Mr zu Guttenberg, who dropped his academic title of “Dr” in a bid to limit the damage to his reputation, was found to have lifted large sections of his Bayreuth University doctoral thesis from other people’s work without having sourced the information.

His resignation was a severe blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition as Mr zu Guttenberg rated as Germany’s most popular politician and as a possible future chancellor.

It has since emerged that the allegations against Mrs Koch-Mehrin are being made by a largely anonymous group called VroniPlag, the same organisation which pursued, exposed and effectively dismissed Mr zu Guttenberg with its plagiarism accusations.

VroniPlag, which publishes its findings online, presents evidence which it claims shows both the original thesis and the sources from which it claims the elements are copied.

“The goal is to guarantee the integrity of doctor titles in Germany,” VroniPlag says on its website. “Our work is neither politically motivated, nor is it aimed at personal defamation or anything like that,” it insists.

The group has also levelled accusations of doctoral plagiarism at Veronica Sass, the lawyer daughter of the former Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber. She faces allegations that parts of her thesis on the regulation of cell phone networks appeared to be copied from Wikipedia articles. Her university has since confirmed that it is investigating a case of plagiarism