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Protesters demand trial for Kohl

BERLIN -- About 300 protesters marched to Helmut Kohl's posh Berlin apartment Saturday, demanding that the former chancellor be prosecuted for his role in his party's financial scandal.

The demonstrators, led by prominent arts figures that included German actors Meret and Ben Becker, called for Kohl to be put on trial for accepting $1 million in illegal political contributions during the 1990s."The constitution must apply to every citizen equally," said Axel Zawierucha, a protester.

Prosecutors in Bonn are considering charging Kohl for his actions while he was chairman of the Christian Democrats for over a quarter century.

Meanwhile, Der Spiegel magazine reported Saturday that, after analyzing dozens of files pertaining to the slush funds Kohl set up to keep off-the-books donations secret from other party officials, prosecutors believe they would be able to make a case for breach of trust.

A spokesman for the Bonn prosecutors' office, Bernd Koenig, denied that prosecutors had already decided that a fine would not be enough to resolve the case, as the magazine also reported. But he refused to comment further on the investigation.

In a statement issued by his office, Kohl's lawyers denied that any crime had been committed and said they expected the 10-week-old investigation to be dropped.

"To speak of a 'hardening of suspicion' is absolutely out of the question," the statement said.

All the money was used for legal political activities, the lawyers said in the statement. Kohl himself has said the money went to help establish the party in the former communist eastern states.

But his refusal to name the donors has triggered a parliamentary investigation into charges -- denied by Kohl -- that cash might have been traded for government favors.

Kohl's lawyers also accused prosecutors of trying to circumvent the will of parliament, which specifically left criminal penalties out of party financing laws. Violations instead are to be punished by fines against the party itself, they said.