Former German President Christian Wulff will go on trial today over receiving and granting favors in office.
Christian Wulff, 54, is alleged to have accepted the payment of hotel bills by a film producer in return for lobbying while he was premier of Lower Saxony in 2008.
The former president – who stepped down in February 2012 after less than two years in the post – is Germany’s first head of state to answer charges in court.
Christian Wulff rejects the allegations and has vowed to clear his name.
Film producer David Groenewold also faces similar charges.
The trial is expected to start at 10 a.m. local time in the northern city of Hannover.
Christian Wulff is alleged to have allowed film producer David Groenewold to pay hotel bills in Munich during the Oktoberfest beer festival in 2008 and on the northern island of Sylt in 2007.
In return, Christian Wulff is accused of having lobbied German companies to support David Groenewold’s work.
Christian Wulff is alleged to have accepted the payment of hotel bills by a film producer in return for lobbying while he was premier of Lower Saxony in 2008
Prosecutors had sought to put the former head on trial for corruption, but the court only approved the less serious charges.
If convicted, Christian Wulff faces up to three years in jail or a fine.
Christian Wulff and David Groenewold had rejected an offer from the prosecutor in March to settle the case with a fine – a procedure allowed for cases not considered especially serious.
He resigned amid a welter of unfavorable coverage in the German media dealing with his links to businessmen.
The pressure on him increased at the end of December 2011 with allegations, published in the mass circulation Bild newspaper, about a low interest home loan received from the wife of a wealthy businessman in 2008.
Christian Wulff was accused of giving misleading statements about the loan and later apologised to the editor of Bild, Kai Diekmann, for leaving an angry message on his voicemail threatening him if the story was published.
Chancellor Angela Merkel had pushed strongly to get Christian Wulff, from her centre-right CDU party, appointed to the largely ceremonial post in 2010.
At the time of his resignation, Angela Merkel said she accepted it “with respect but also with regret” and that she was convinced he had “acted legally”.
President Christian Wulff was succeeded by the Lutheran pastor and former East German anti-communist campaigner, Joachim Gauck.
President Joachim Gauck has become the first German senior dignitary to visit Oradour-sur-Glane in France, where 642 people were killed by Nazi troops in June 1944.
The ruins of the village are preserved just as they were after the massacre.
Joachim Gauck said that he had accepted a French invitation to visit the site with “gratitude and humility”.
More than 200 children were among the victims of the World War II atrocity that left deep scars in France.
After the war General Charles de Gaulle – who later became France’s president – ordered the village not to be rebuilt but instead remain a memorial to the evils of Nazi occupation. A new village was built nearby.
“I want to reach out to the victims and tell them: I am at your side,” President Joachim Gauck told Europe 1 radio ahead of the visit.
“I am 73-years-old, I was born during the war, I was steeped in the discussion of our guilt… I will tell the victims and their families: <<We know what was done>>.”
President Joachim Gauck has become the first German senior dignitary to visit Oradour-sur-Glane
Joachim Gauck said on Tuesday that he would not refrain from making the point to others during his visit that “the Germany that I have the honor of representing is a different Germany from the one that haunts their memories”.
He was joined in Oradour-sur-Glane by his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, and together they visited the village square, where residents were rounded up by Nazi troops ostensibly to have their identity papers checked.
They also walked around a church where women and children were incarcerated before it was set on fire. The village’s men were taken to a barn where they were shot with machine-guns.
The two presidents were accompanied by two of the three living survivors, including 88-year-old Robert Hebras.
He was 19 at the time of the massacre, and survived because he was buried under the bodies of other men who had been shot.
“I was consumed by hatred and vengeance for a long time,” he was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
At a joint news conference on Tuesday, Francois Hollande praised Joachim Gauck’s decision to go to the massacre site as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.
In 2010, Germany reopened a war crimes case into the attack when a historian discovered documents implicating six suspects who were now in their 80s.
Prosecutors said 12 members of the SS-Panzer Division “Das Reich” – which had spent three years on the Russian front before being deployed to the Normandy battlefields to fight Allied invasion forces – were suspected of involvement in the massacre.
The reason for the mass killings is unclear. One theory is that the Nazis sought to avenge the kidnapping of one of their officers, but another is that Das Reich troops were angered by what they believed was theft of a large amount of gold by villagers.
President Joachim Gauck, a former East German human rights activist, has paid two other visits to the sites of Nazi mass killings in Europe – the Czech village of Lidice, near Prague, and the Italian hamlet of Sant’Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany.
In 1984, French President Francois Mitterrand and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl joined hands while attending a memorial service for fallen soldiers at the World War I battlefield of Verdun.