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Stasi papers on Kohl can be released

Secret files kept on the former Chancellor Helmut Kohl by the East German secret police can be released, a court ruled yesterday.

The Berlin court decided that a federal ruling in March 2002 blocking the release was no longer valid under a law parliament passed last July restoring researchers' access to files on public figures gathered by the Stasi.

Mr Kohl's lawyer, Stephan Holthoff-Pfoertner, said that his client would appeal against the ruling. The archives will remain closed until a final decision is made.

Marianne Birthler, the head of the agency overseeing the archives, had fought Mr Kohl's attempts to keep his records private, saying the former leader could not be exempt from laws applying to others. Mr Kohl's archives did not contain information obtained by "eavesdropping or other methods that violate human rights", she said.

Journalists and historians had asked to see Mr Kohl's 2,500-page Stasi file, which Mr Kohl has seen, prompting speculation that the documents could shed light on the party financing scandal that disgraced Mr Kohl.

Mr Kohl says that wiretaps used by the Stasi to spy on him were illegally obtained and that he deserves protection from damage to his "human dignity". He also claims that the notes contain false information.(AP)