It is just after ten o'clock on Friday morning when the witness Thomas Strobl is called. And here he comes, gray suit, gray tie, files under his arm. "Good morning," says Baden-Württemberg's interior minister, before he sits down with a flourish in the witness chair at the very front of the plenary hall.
A committee of inquiry has certain similarities to a court case: witnesses are called, are instructed to tell the truth, nothing to add, nothing to omit. And that they can remain silent if they have to incriminate themselves. But Strobl (CDU) wants to talk. Although in this complicated affair he is not only a witness, but also a protagonist. He stands for transparency, says Strobl right at the beginning. His understanding of transparency is part of the problem. But more on that in a moment.
Something's been brewing in the southwest. It started almost a year ago with massive allegations against the inspector of the police. The country's highest-ranking police officer is said to have sexually harassed a young police officer and emphasized his ability to influence her career. A scandal if true. The inspector was suspended. But the affair did not remain a police affair for long.
The public prosecutor's office has been investigating Strobl for months
Shortly before Christmas, the police inspector's lawyer wrote a letter to Interior Minister Strobl. He passed the letter on to a journalist. Because he quoted from it, the public prosecutor's office has been investigating for months. Strobl is suspected of having instigated the reporter to illegally make "reports about court hearings".
The investigative committee now wants to examine everything, the sexual harassment, the passing on of the lawyer's letter, the promotion practice at the state police. Because how can it be that an obviously unsuitable police officer comes to such a responsible post?
The deputies are hoping for answers from Strobl, the responsible interior minister, although the opposition deputies are also hoping that they can further increase the pressure on the 62-year-old. They have been demanding Strobl's resignation for months. But on Friday, at the first public committee meeting, he doesn't seem like someone fighting for his future.
Strobl says of the police inspector that before he was promoted he had heard "only positive things" about the officer: determined, committed, ambitious, with an impeccable reputation. He says that there was "no political decision and no political influence". And that he, Strobl, was "deeply sad" and disappointed when he heard about the allegations against the police officer.
Strobl believes that the lawyer's letter was made public
Strobl says about the forwarded lawyer's letter that it was a "toxic" offer to talk. He wanted to forestall the impression that a sensitive procedure was being moved to the back room, and that serious allegations were being cleared up on the short official route. The letter was heard by the public - and quickly.
In retrospect, however, the way in which the letter found its way into the public domain seems a bit strange. The ministry directed it to a single journalist who Stuttgart News further. The source, i.e. Strobl, remained anonymous for months, even after repeated inquiries from other reporters. Oliver Hildenbrand, chairman of the Greens, wants to know why he didn't call a press conference. That's right, says Strobl, from today's perspective he would do it differently.
Then the interior minister would have been spared a lot. But essentially what Strobl said on Friday has already been heard in one way or another over the past few months. There is little evidence that Strobl's political future will be decided here in the committee of inquiry. It may be more important how the public prosecutor assesses his case. The investigation is still ongoing.