No More Mercy for Hamburg's 'Judge Merciless'

Sacked after many a controvery: Hamburg's Ronald Schill

Hamburg's controversial interior minister has lost his job. Mayor Ole von Beust fired Ronald Schill after the former judge allegedly threatened to out him.

Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust fired the city-state's controversial interior minister on Tuesday. He said that 'law and order' man Ronald Schill had threatened to publicly out Beust as a homosexual.

"I have dismissed Mr. Schill," Beust told reporters. "I felt forced to dismiss him because Schill's character is not suited to the office."

The two men had met to discuss Schill's deputy Walter Wellinghausen, who Beust (picture) also dismissed. Wellinghausen, who had been Schill's attorney, has been accused of illegally continuing to collect pay in another capacity after he became privy counselor. According to Beust, Schill said the mayor had made his ostensible partner his justice minister and that the two had a homosexual relationship.

"The end of a nightmare"

Relief was apparent after Schill's sacking was announced. "For the police, it's the end of a nightmare," the head of the police trade union, Konrad Freiberg, said. "The DGB emphatically welcomes the fact that Ole von Beust dismissed Interior Minister Schill and his privy counsel Wellinghausen," German Trade Union Federation (DGB) regional head Erhard Pumm announced. Even representatives from Schill's coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, expressed relief, "We have absolutely no sympathy for Mr. Schill's behavior. We consider Mayor von Beust's actions appropriate."

Although Ronald Barnabas Schill disputed Beust's accusations, he said he now wished to retire from politics.

Hamburg's Haider

The dismissal may mark the end of a short but dramatic career in politics for the Hamburg judge. "Judge Merciless," as the German media dubbed him, first drew nationwide attention for the draconic sentences he handed down in the Hamburg court he presided over.

The "law-and-order" man formed his own political party, the Schill Party in July 2000 and campaigned in the September 2001 Hamburg elections. At the same time as fending off comparisons to Austria's rightwing politician Jörg Haider, Schill called for sex offenders to be castrated, suspected drug dealers to be fed emetics to retrieve evidence and convicted foreigners to be deported.

Throughout the campaign he was haunted by the three-day jail sentence he had imposed on the two young men in 1999 for disturbing court proceedings. A Hamburg court had already convicted Schill of false imprisonment and perversion of justice based on accusations that he delayed a complaint made by the men.

But Schill's hardline appealed to the Hamburg electorate. His party earned 19.4 percent of the votes in the traditionally Social Democratic city, 25 of the 121 mandates. Suddenly the Schill Party had the chance to make-up part of the city's ruling coalition, which after more than three weeks of talks it did, along with the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats. Schill was named interior minister and deputy mayor, while two other party members headed up Hamburg ministries.

Schill's first 100 days in office, starting on October 31, 2001, were overshadowed by accusations that the senator used cocaine and the furore surrounding the expensive uniforms he ordered to make Hamburg's police look "nicer." He submitted hair for a drug test that cleared him of the drug-taking charges. Schill was acquitted of false imprisonment and perversion of justice in December 2001. Schill, the court said "objectively" perverted justice, but not on purpose, and he had lied. Hours later Schill named his defense attorney, Walter Wellinghausen, privy counselor in the interior ministry.

Uproar in parliament

The national spotlight turned to Schill again in late August 2002 when he addressed the German Parliament during a discussion of aid for flooded German regions. Schill used the opportunity to accuse the German governments of the past years of "total failure." Twice Schill's microphone was turned off after he refused to bring his rant to an end. Across the political spectrum German politicians and the media were scandalized by Schill's behavior. "This is the last time that such a thing will happen," Hamburg mayor Beust announced in response.

Beust has been as good as his word, despite the risk that it could have meant the end for his three-way coalition. So far though, the ruling coalition is standing firm. After a meeting on Tuesday the three parties announced that their cooperation would continue uninterrupted. Schill Party chairman Mario Mettbach said the disgraced interior minister's predecessor will be named by Friday.

The Hamburg district attorney is investigating whether to take legal action against Schill for coercion.



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"America is the true country of downfall. The west of mankind. But the Atlantic sea is the isolating belt for the mind and every higher form of life." [Nikolaus Lenau, Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, in 6 vol.; published by E. Castle, Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1910-11, vol. 3. Excerpt from the letter Georg Reinbeck, Lisbon in Ohio, March 5, 1833, p. 199)

"What makes one's words stick in one's throat whenever one attempts to have a conversation with an American is their monumental self-righteousness. They prove with every sentence, every action, that they know absolutely nothing, yet they pretend that they are the only people who know anything. When confronted with several alternatives they do not hesitate: with energy and assurance they immediately choose the worst. And what is particularly bad is the way they continually act contrary to their own true interests." [Ernst von Salomon, "The Questionnaire", 1951]