BERLIN — Germany's Justice Ministry says former chief federal prosecutor Harald Range, who was fired in 2015 over a controversial investigation into two journalists, has died at age 70.

The ministry confirmed media reports Thursday that Range died of a heart attack while out at a cafe in Karlsruhe on Wednesday evening.

Then-Justice Minister Heiko Maas, now Germany's foreign minister, dismissed Range over his decision to open an investigation into two journalists from the website who had reported that Germany's domestic spy agency planned to expand surveillance of online communication.

The treason probe, later dropped, was widely criticized and regarded as an embarrassment to the government, which was forced to defend Germany's commitment to protecting press freedom.

Range accused Maas of political interference in the case.