Army conscript abuse inquiry widened

22nd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

22 November 2004 , MUENSTER - A German inquiry into physical abuse of conscripts that included electroshocks has been widened to include three more non-commissioned officers, a prosecutor said on Monday in the northern town of Muenster. Wolfgang Schweer, senior prosecutor, said the training method, in which the trainers pretended to be hostage-takers and bound, hooded, hit and drenched conscripts with cold water, was "way over the limit" and "intolerable." But he criticised German media headlines, saying,

22 November 2004 

MUENSTER - A German inquiry into physical abuse of conscripts that included electroshocks has been widened to include three more non-commissioned officers, a prosecutor said on Monday in the northern town of Muenster.

Wolfgang Schweer, senior prosecutor, said the training method, in which the trainers pretended to be hostage-takers and bound, hooded, hit and drenched conscripts with cold water, was "way over the limit" and "intolerable."

But he criticised German media headlines, saying, "I consider use of the term 'torture' for this to be an utter exaggeration."

The extended inquiry now targets 20 NCOs and a captain at the army base in the small northern town of Coesfeld. The army says it made the case public on 11 November, but it only attracted wider attention following a report in Monday's issue of the news magazine Der Spiegel.

An estimated 80 conscripts were involved in the four exercises between June and September this year.

Prosecutors say they have established that one conscript was given electric shocks in soft tissue with a loud-speaker cable, but none of the men had suffered permanent physical injury. The conscripts were difficult to interview as they had since scattered all over Germany.

Opposition and Greens politicians have demanded that Defence Minister Peter Struck, 61, make a statement in parliament this week about the allegations. 

The conscripts were ambushed during a night march, bound, hooded and bundled into a truck. They were made to kneel against the wall of a barracks basement to be beaten, drenched with cold water and electro-shocked, according to a news magazine report. 

The army said the exercise, allegedly to toughen the men in case they were taken hostage, was not authorised.

Army personnel at the base, in Coesfeld, near the northern city of Muenster, have reportedly been warned to keep names of the accused secret. They may be charged with abuse of subordinates. 

The report in Der Spiegel said there had been four separate mock hostage takings at the Coesfeld base between June and September this year.

According to Spiegel, recruits were only warned about something unpleasant that would toughen them up, and told they could escape at any time by shouting a password, but would then be branded as cowards. The spokesman declined to confirm any of the details.

The victims were part of a repair battalion, not an elite fighting unit.

The magazine said the trainers may have been inspired by reports of US torture in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Spiegel said one victim had been photographed with his pants off. Investigators were checking reports that the incidents were video- taped.
DPA

Subject: German news
 

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