Whistleblower acquitted after 7yrs in psychiatric ward

Berlin - A German man who blew the whistle on an illegal banking scheme in 2003 was acquitted by a Regensburg court on Thursday amid suspicion that his involuntary seven-year stint in a psychiatric institution may have come as a result of unjust persecution.

Gustl Mollath, a 57-year-old former restorer of vintage cars, had repeatedly denied the allegations against him - which included attacking his wife and slashing the tyres of several cars - saying that he was being persecuted for blowing the whistle on a tax evasion scheme at Bavaria's Hypovereinsbank.

The scheme Mollath was describing, which was later found to be partially true, was used by prosecutors at the time as evidence that he was suffering from paranoid delusions.

But the Regensburg court on Thursday ruled that Mollath was to be given "the benefit of the doubt" due to a lack of evidence and procedural mistakes made during his previous trial. A key medical report used as evidence was later found to be fictitious.

Mollath's case was reopened in Regensburg after a lower court unexpectedly ordered his release from the psychiatric ward last year and granted him a new trial.

The Regensburg court also granted Mollath compensation for being committed to a mental institution against his will for a period of seven years on the basis of a flawed court ruling.