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February 11, 2011

German Prosecutor Seeks to Make Example of Homeschooling Family

The Dudek family of Hessen, Germany, underwent a grueling retrial this past week for the “criminal offense” of teaching their children at home. After four hours of hearings, the judge continued the case for further arguments after Mr. Dudek’s defense attorney, Andreas Vogt, called for the replacement of the prosecutor in the case, Herwig Mueller.

Mueller once told Mr. Dudek he wouldn’t have to worry about paying his fines because he (Mueller) was going to send him to jail. The judge in the current retrial seemed open to a request by Mrs. Dudek’s attorney to dismiss the case completely. Mueller, however, was adamant that he would “never” agree to that. When asked why, he snapped: “I’ve just told you ‘never’ and I don’t have to explain it.” Mr. Vogt then appealed to the judge for a new prosecutor in the Dudek’s case because of Mr. Mueller’s apparent bias. However, the chief prosecutor, Heinrich Becker, was unavailable and so the trial was held over until Monday. In 2008, Becker was the judge who sentenced the Dudeks to 90 days each in jail.

Mr. Dudek said he was hopeful.

“I know that God is in control and that there are many people praying for us,” Mr. Dudek said. “We ask for continued prayer. We are getting too used to being in courtrooms. We hope that our case will bring about more freedom for people to homeschool in Germany. We are only doing what we by conscience and according to our faith must do. We rely on the prayers our homeschooling brothers and sisters in America and around the world.”

The Dudeks have previously endured threats of stiff fines and prison sentences as German authorities have doggedly pursued them for nearly five years. In July 2008, then-judge Becker sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Dudek to 90 days in jail each for homeschooling. This prison sentence overturned a previous ruling from a lower court that had fined the family an outrageous sum of 900 euros (about $1,200). Their last hearing took place in November 2009, when an appeals court overturned the couple’s jail sentences. Although the judge recognized that the family was doing a fine job in educating their children, he still found them guilty under the German state of Hessen’s criminal law and imposed a fine of 120 euros (about $160).

HSLDA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly calls the actions of the German state oppressive.

“The Dudek family is bravely standing up for what is right and we support them,” Donnelly said. “Mr. and Mrs Dudek are humble people quietly seeking to do what is best for their children—homeschooling them. There is no question that they are conscientious, diligent, and well-equipped to do so. For the German state to seek to make an example of them is disgraceful. Parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children. It’s time that German policy makers took action to make it legal for the Dudeks and for the thousands of other German families who want and deserve educational freedom.”

 More Information

“Judge Fines Homeschoolers, No Jail Sentence”