German ex-president acquitted in corruption trial

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's former president, Christian Wulff, was acquitted Thursday of corruption charges in a case that prompted his resignation two years ago.

Wulff declared himself "very relieved" after the state court in Hannover cleared him of illegally accepting favors. "I never had any doubt" about the outcome," he told reporters.

Wulff was once a deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party and was her choice for the largely ceremonial role of president. His resignation less than two years into a five-year term was an embarrassment to the German leader.

He quit when prosecutors asked Parliament to lift his immunity in February 2012 so that they could start a formal investigation.

Wulff had faced a barrage of corruption allegations stemming from his time as governor of the state of Lower Saxony before he became president in 2010. A furious message that he left on the voicemail of the editor of Germany's best-selling newspaper before it published a report on the allegations added to pressure on the president, raising questions over his political judgment.

The charges that went to trial last November related specifically to some 720 euros ($990) in hotel and entertainment costs allegedly paid by German film producer David Groenewold for Wulff and his family during a visit to Oktoberfest in Munich in 2008. Prosecutors alleged that Wulff then helped Groenewold try to raise support for a film project.

Both men denied corruption. Groenewold also was acquitted of providing favors to Wulff.

"There is simply no powerful evidence against the defendants," judge Frank Rosenow said as he read the verdict, news agency dpa reported.

It wasn't immediately clear whether prosecutors would appeal the verdict.