Former German President Will Stand Trial

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Correction Appended

BERLIN -- Christian Wulff, a former German president and onetime ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel who quit over allegations of accepting favors from wealthy friends while serving as a governor, will become the first former head of state in the country's postwar history to stand trial.

The Hanover state court said Tuesday that it had opened proöceedings against Mr. Wulff on charges of illegally accepting favors while serving as governor of Lower Saxony and set Nov. 1 as the opening date for the trial. If found guilty, the former president nevertheless could be fined, or face up to three years in prison.

The court's announcement comes as the campaign for Germany's Sept. 22 election begins to heat up. Ms. Merkel, who is seeking a third term as chancellor, had selected and promoted Mr. Wulff for the largely ceremonial post of president in 2010, but swiftly distanced herself from him after he resigned in February 2012.

The charges center on a weekend during the Munich Oktoberfest in September 2008. Prosecutors accuse Mr. Wulff, who was governor at the time, of allowing a friend and filmmaker, David Groenewold, to pick up the tab for two dinners, a night at a luxury hotel and a baby sitter for his young son. In exchange for the favors, which amounted to about 750 euros, or about $1,000, Mr. Wulff is said to have lobbied the head of Siemens to back a project for which Mr. Groenewold was seeking financing, the German public network ARD reported.

Prosecutors had originally sought to press a more serious charge of corruption against the former president, but the court said there was not enough evidence to support it.

Mr. Wulff, 54, has repeatedly denied the accusations. Earlier this year, he turned down an opportunity to pay a fine that would have closed the case, insisting that he welcomed the opportunity to clear his name in court. He made no immediate comment on Tuesday about the court's announcement.

Correction: August 27, 2013, Tuesday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Christian Wulff as the first former German head of state to stand trial. Karl Dönitz, who briefly led the country after Hitler's death in 1945, was tried and convicted at Nuremberg.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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