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Over 2,000 academics demand resignation of German Education Minister over repression

June 14, 2024 at 8:11 pm

German Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger at the HCC Hannover Congress Centrum in Hanover, northern Germany on April 21, 2024 [JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

More than 2,000 academics have signed a letter demanding the resignation of Germany’s Education Minister over her attempt to sanction scholars who supported pro-Palestinian students’ right to protest, Anadolu Agency reports.

Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger has come under growing criticism after media reports revealed that her Ministry initiated a legal review last month to examine the open letter released by these scholars, and the possibility of dropping funding for their studies.

“Academics in Germany are experiencing an unprecedented attack on their fundamental rights, on the 75th anniversary of the Basic Law,” the scholars said in a statement on Friday, and underlined that recent actions taken by the Ministry make Stark-Watzinger’s position as Minister untenable.

“The withdrawal of funding ad personam on the basis of political statements made by researchers is contrary to the Basic Law: teaching and research are free. The internal order to examine such political sanctions is a sign of constitutional ignorance and political abuse of power,” the scholars said.

“It illustrates an increasing rift between decision-makers in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and those who support the academic system through their research and teaching. Through its intimidating effect alone, the Minister’s actions risk permanently damaging the hard-won right of academic freedom against political and state interference,” they added.

On 8 May, more than 300 academics from Berlin universities expressed their support for pro-Palestine protest camps on the campus of the Free University of Berlin, and defended the students’ right to demonstrate.

“Regardless of whether we agree with the specific demands of the protest camp, we stand up for our students, and defend their right to peaceful protest, which also includes the occupation of university grounds,” they said.

The academics accused the university’s management of subjecting the demonstrators to “police violence”.

Media reports have revealed that, a few days after this open letter, Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger’s office initiated a legal review to examine the possibility of sanctions under civil service law and criminal law against these academics, including the option to revoke funding for their studies.

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