(Adds poll, background)
BERLIN Feb 26 German prosecutors have opened an
investigation into a former minister in Chancellor Angela
Merkel's cabinet on suspicion of betraying confidential
information, a spokesman said on Wednesday, nearly two weeks
after he resigned.
Former agriculture minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member
of Merkel's Bavarian sister party, quit over accusations he
leaked confidential information about a fellow lawmaker
suspected of possessing child pornography.
"We have started proceedings", said a spokesman for Berlin
Friedrich had in October 2013 told the chairman of the
Social Democrats (SPD), with whom the conservatives were in
coalition talks, that the name SPD lawmaker Sebastian Edathy had
come up in an international investigation into pornography.
The scandal rocked Merkel's new "grand coalition" only
months after it was formed.
A Forsa poll showed on Wednesday that the SPD had suffered
most from the scandal, which infuriated conservatives because it
was an SPD lawmaker who revealed Friedrich's leak.
So far no senior SPD figures have quit but in the survey,
the SPD were down 2 percentage points at 22 percent - its lowest
level since the September election. Despite Friedrich's
resignation, the conservative camp gained one percentage point
to 41 percent.
Edathy, who quit parliament earlier this month citing poor
health, has denied possessing child pornography.
The prosecutors said Friedrich did not enjoy immunity
because the president of the Bundestag lower house had raised no
objections in the 48 hours after they wrote to inform him of
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers)