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Till Lindemann at a concert in Denmark

Photo: Sebastian Dammark / Gonzales Photo / picture alliance

It is a clear verdict that the Frankfurt Regional Court has made in the press dispute between Till Lindemann and the »Süddeutsche Zeitung«: The article »At the end of the show« is fully admissible and may remain without restrictions. With the text, the SZ, together with the NDR, made the accusations against Lindemann and around the band Rammstein public for the first time in June of this year.

Lindemann's lawyers had argued that the reporting showed that Lindemann had performed sexual acts on two women to which they had not consented. All accusations made are stigmatizing and can be attributed to serious crime. Since the sexual contacts were consensual, the descriptions violated the rock star's privacy and should therefore be banned. Also because the article is prejudging and unbalanced.

The Chamber took a different view. After an oral hearing at the beginning of September, the Frankfurt Regional Court had rejected Lindemann's application for a preliminary injunction. Now followed the reasons for the verdict, which is available to SPIEGEL. There was an "overriding public interest in information about the casting system of the plaintiff and his band Rammstein as well as in concrete allegations of sexual assault against female fans," the court ruled. The journalists had worked carefully and carried out extensive research.

Accusations since summer

In the summer of this year, allegations became public about a perfidious casting system around the band, which apparently served to provide lead singer Lindemann with women for sex. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, several women accused Till Lindemann of abuse of power and sexual assault.

SPIEGEL also reported extensively. Women had described situations that they sometimes found frightening. The allegations were about alcohol and loss of control and the question of whether Lindemann had abused his power over younger, female fans. Lindemann denies the allegations against him to this day. At the end of August, it became known that the Berlin public prosecutor's office had closed its investigations against Lindemann. (Read here why the public prosecutor's office closed the investigation.)

Reporting despite presumption of innocence

The press is nevertheless allowed to report, the court finds. "However, the presumption of innocence does not preclude a suspicion from being described and evaluated," the ruling reads. This is one of the tasks of the press. The reporting is not inadmissible as a result of a discontinued investigation.

The »Süddeutsche Zeitung« had invoked a request from the Berlin public prosecutor's office for the protection of sources, so the investigating authorities had not spoken to the women themselves. Therefore, the Frankfurt court held, no statement could be derived about the quality of the evidentiary facts presented in the proceedings.

The court also does not agree with the accusation that the article is prejudicial. The criticism levelled at Lindemann in the »Süddeutsche Zeitung« was »recognizably objective and not superficially aimed at disparaging him«.

The court also justifies the extent of the public interest in information from the point of view of "prevention". If young women are systematically selected for sexual acts with Lindemann and brought to him in an organized manner, the court said, "in this context, due to their inexperience, they could find themselves in situations in which sexual acts occur from which they are no longer able to extricate themselves out of fear or shame or considerable alcohol or drug intoxication." There is a "considerable public interest" in the discussion about this.

Testimony against testimony

It is noteworthy in the verdict from Frankfurt am Main that there is extensive reference to the descriptions that are said to have occurred between Lindemann and two women. Consequently, there is testimony against testimony and there are said to have been no other direct witnesses to the situation.

The »Süddeutsche Zeitung« had quoted the descriptions of two women who claimed to have had sex with Till Lindemann and described him as ruthless and violent.

The LG Frankfurt considers it possible to report on this. If one were to assume, the court reasoned, "that whenever there can be only one witness due to the particularities of the individual case, the required minimum body of evidence is not available, this would mean that a possible incident such as the present one could never be reported."

It is questionable whether the verdict is therefore to be regarded as a fundamental decision for testimony-against-testimony situations: In addition to affidavits of the women themselves, the »Süddeutsche Zeitung« had submitted text messages as well as other statements from witnesses that substantiated the women's descriptions to a significant extent. Lindemann, on the other hand, had not filed an affidavit. "Procedurally, in view of this, the truthfulness of Ms. ́s statements must be assumed," the court writes.

Till Lindemann's lawyer for the law firm Scherz Bergmann told SPIEGEL that the verdict of the Frankfurt Regional Court was extremely long and erroneous. As a lawyer, he had difficulty understanding it, according to Simon Bergmann. In addition, it contradicts previous case-law in some respects, for example of the Hamburg Regional Court. "There are a lot of points in there that really bother me," Bergmann said. He would therefore in any case file an appeal in the short term.

The editor-in-chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, on the other hand, wrote in response to an inquiry that the verdict was correct and a "gratifying victory for freedom of the press." The diligence and balance of the SZ's research and reporting had been rightly appreciated. The verdict will stand up to review by the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court in the event of an appeal, the medium is convinced.

Successes and failures

In recent months, Lindemann had taken partially successful action against the allegations against him. An investigation by Austria's public broadcaster ORF can no longer be read publicly in large parts. The Hamburg Regional Court had based its decision on the fact that the time and place of the incident described had not been disclosed, so that Lindemann had not been given the opportunity to defend himself sufficiently. When asked, the ORF justified this with the protection of the source and points out that the reports were substantiated with chat logs, photos and two independent expert opinions. The broadcaster intends to refrain from further legal remedies.

Several claims made by influencer Kayla Shyx from a YouTube video against Lindemann were also banned. SPIEGEL was also prohibited from making some statements by the Hamburg Regional Court, but Till Lindemann's request for injunctive relief was also largely rejected: The core of SPIEGEL's reporting can still be read online.

Lindemann's lawyers were completely unsuccessful in two other cases before the Berlin and Hamburg Regional Courts. The creators of the petition "No Stage for Rammstein" are allowed to describe the casting system around Till Lindemann as "sexual abuse", the Berlin Regional Court ruled. The singer's lawyers withdrew a motion against it. The attempt to prohibit Irishwoman Shelby Lynn from making certain statements also failed. Lynn had started the #MeToo scandal around the band Rammstein with public accusations.

It was only on Wednesday that the band announced their new tour for next year. Despite the allegations, the series of performances with around two dozen concerts is said to be as extensive as this year, the dpa reported. The pre-sale should start soon.