Germany's acting chief public prosecutor on Monday dropped a treason investigation against a news website and said the secrets it leaked did not threaten national security.
Acting chief prosecutor Gerhard Altvater said that documents published by blog Netzpolitik.org detailing plans to step up state surveillance of online communications did not constitute state secrets and that all treason charges have therefore been dropped.
He became acting chief prosecutor after his predecessor Harald Range was fired by Justice Minister Heiko Maas last week in a row that rocked Germany's political establishment.
Range had accused the Justice Ministry of meddling in the treason investigation. Maas previously expressed doubts over whether the publication of restricted documents belonging to the domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, endangered Germany.
The treason investigation was put on hold while an expert study looked into the articles detailing the plans, published on Netzpolitik on Feb. 25 and April 15 this year.
The allegation of journalists committed treason has prompted widespread outrage among press freedom advocates and lawyers.
Privacy is an especially sensitive issue in Germany after the extensive surveillance by the Stasi in communist East Germany and by the Gestapo during the Nazi era.
The Netzpolitik case has echoes of the 1962 Spiegel affair, a Cold War–era scandal widely seen as a landmark in ensuring freedom of the media in postwar Germany.