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German Minister Quits Over Plagiarism Scandal
Germany's education minister has resigned after being accused of plagiarism over three decades ago and having her doctorate withdrawn.
Annette Schavan, a close ally and confidante of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was stripped of her doctorate by her former university earlier this week after it was claimed she had plagiarised parts of her thesis over 30 years ago. The minister denies the allegations.
Duesseldorf's Heinrich Heine University decided to revoke her PhD following a review of her 1980 thesis after an anonymous blogger last year raised plagiarism allegations.
The university said she had "systematically and intentionally" copied parts of her thesis, titled "Person and Conscience".
On announcing her decision to quit, 57-year-old Mrs Schavan reiterated her vow to fight the allegations but said she did not want the claims to damage the office, party or Government.
She said: "I will not accept the decision (by the university) and will take legal action against it.
"When a (education) minister sues a university, then that comes with strains, for my office, for the ministry, the government and for the Christian Democrats (Mrs Merkel's party). I want to avoid just that."
Chancellor Merkel said she accepted her resignation "with a heavy heart".
The resignation is a political blow for Germany's leader less than eight months before elections in which the she is hoping to win a third term in office.
Mrs Schavan becomes the second close ally of the Chancellor to step down over plagiarism.
Only two years ago then-defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg lost his doctorate and quit when it emerged that he copied large parts of his doctoral thesis.
The extent of Mrs Schavan's alleged plagiarism is thought to be less than that of Mr zu Guttenberg's, whose actions earned the aristocrat the nicknames "Baron cut-and-paste" and "zu Googleberg".
Nevertheless, Mrs Schavan's mistakes were seen as indefensible given her position as education minister in a country where academic titles are taken extremely seriously.
At the time of Mr zu Guttenberg's downfall Mrs Schavan she said she was "ashamed" of her former cabinet colleague.
"As someone who was herself awarded a doctorate 31 years ago and who has supervised several doctoral candidates, I am ashamed and not just behind closed doors," she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in 2011.