Court awards damages to German scribe detained after writing about alleged EU fraud
Strausbourg (AP): Europe's human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Belgian police searches of a German journalist's home and office violated his rights to free expression.
Hans Martin Tillack, who was based in Brussels for the Germany weekly Stern, was targeted in 2004 after writing articles about alleged European Union fraud.
The European Court of Human Rights ordered Belgium to pay Tillack euro10,000, or nearly US$15,000, in damages and euro30,000 _ about US$44,500 _ for court expenses. It said the searches were aimed at revealing his sources and, therefore, breached his rights as a journalist.
Tillack wrote two articles about alleged EU fraud in 2002. The EU anti-fraud office OLAF then launched an inquiry into whether Tillack's articles contained information obtained through payments to officials.
OLAF suspected Tillack of bribing an EU official with euro8,000 _ around US$12,000 _ in exchange for confidential information concerning a fraud investigation in the EU institutions.
Tillack and Stern have denied paying for confidential information.
The human rights court referred in its judgment to a report by the European ombudsman that concluded the suspicion of bribery had been based on rumors spread by another journalist.
After receiving details about OLAF's inquiry, Belgian police detained Tillack for several hours in 2004 and searched his home and office, seizing 16 crates of paper, two computers and four mobile phones.