January 10, 2008 / 4:57 PM / 11 years ago

German prosecutor annuls 1933 Reichstag fire ruling

The Reichstag building, the seat of the German lower house of parliament, is illuminated by late sunlight in Berlin, May 25, 2007. The death sentence passed on Dutchman Marinus van der Lubbe for torching Berlin's Reichstag in 1933 was illegal, Germany's federal prosecutor said on Thursday. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - The death sentence passed on Dutchman Marinus van der Lubbe for torching Berlin’s Reichstag in 1933 was illegal, Germany’s federal prosecutor said on Thursday.

Van der Lubbe, a communist activist, was found guilty of treason and arson by the Reichsgericht, Germany’s highest court at the time, in December 1933 and guillotined the following month in Leipzig.

The burning of the Reichstag, the location of the German parliament, was a key event in the rise to power of the Nazis, who used it to stoke fears about the threat of communism.

Adolf Hitler persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to sign a decree which suspended some civil liberties and paved the way for the suppression of thousands of communists and other opponents of the Nazis.

The federal prosecutor said on Thursday the reversal of the 1933 court ruling was based on a law passed in 1998 which aimed to nullify legal injustices perpetrated by the Nazis.

The latest ruling was in response to a petition by a Berlin lawyer, it said.

The acquittals of four other men in the 1933 trial, including Bulgarian communist leader Georgi Dimitrov, remain in force, the prosecutor said.

Reporting by Iain Rogers; editing by Robert Woodward

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