BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court ordered publisher Random House and two journalists on Thursday to pay former Chancellor Helmut Kohl record damages of 1 million euros ($1.1 million)for violating his privacy by publishing unauthorized quotes from hours of interviews.
“This is the highest judgment ever rendered for violations of privacy rights under German law,” the district court of Cologne said in a statement.
Kohl, now 87 and in fragile health, had sued Random House, his former ghost writer Heribert Schwan and co-author Tilman Jens for publishing without his consent 116 comments allegedly made by Kohl during interviews in 2001 and 2002 and published in an unauthorized biography in 2014 called “Legacy: The Kohl Protocols”.
The court decision also affirmed an earlier decision blocking publication of the quotes, in which Kohl was quoted speaking disparagingly of public figures such as current Chancellor Angela Merkel and the late Princess Diana, as well as the World Jewish Congress.
Kohl, the architect of German reunification, did not appear during Thursday’s court session, but the defendants were present, a spokeswoman for the court said.
She said the judge, in explaining his decision, said that some of the alleged quotations could not be found in transcripts of the interviews that were provided by the defendants, while others had been taken out of context.
Kohl had worked closely with Schwan, an acclaimed journalist, and they compiled three volumes of the chancellor’s memoirs, but had a falling-out before the fourth book was published in 2014 without Kohl’s consent.
The court also ordered Schwan to provide information about the whereabouts of over 600 hours of tape recordings he made of conversations with Kohl while working on the memoirs.
The court said the publisher and authors could appeal the rulings within a month.
($1 = 0.9205 euros)
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan