Ex-police official rejectstorture threat claim
18 November 2004 , FRANKFURT - A former top-ranking Frankfurt police official and a police investigator denied in court on Thursday that they threatened torture against a kidnapping suspect in order to locate the kidnap victim, a boy who it turned out was already dead. In the emotionally-charged case related to the kidnapping and death of a boy from a prominent Frankfurt banking family in September 2002, former Frankfurt Police Department vice president Wolfgang Daschner and the unnamed co-defendant, a sub
18 November 2004
FRANKFURT - A former top-ranking Frankfurt police official and a police investigator denied in court on Thursday that they threatened torture against a kidnapping suspect in order to locate the kidnap victim, a boy who it turned out was already dead.
In the emotionally-charged case related to the kidnapping and death of a boy from a prominent Frankfurt banking family in September 2002, former Frankfurt Police Department vice president Wolfgang Daschner and the unnamed co-defendant, a subordinate of Daschner's, admitted threatening the suspect but not with torture.
Daschner, 61, told the court he had instructed the police investigator to tell the kidnapping suspect to prepare for measures of "immediate coercion" and of a "truth serum".
But this did not amount to torture and torture was never applied, Daschner said, saying his actions at the time were purely meant to try to rescue the boy who had been kidnapped.
Daschner and his subordinate face charges of serious coercion, punishable by between six months and five years in prison, in the case which has strongly stirred German public opinion.
On 27 September 2002, law student Magnus Gaefgen, then 27, kidnapped 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler. Gaefgen was an acquaintance of the family.
Gaefgen was arrested on 30 September after the turnover of ransom money and taken to police for questioning, when the alleged threat of torture took place.
On 1 October Gaefgen broke down and led police to a lake 35 kilometres from Frankfurt. There, police found the boy's body wrapped in a blue sack and hidden beneath a boat dock.
An autopsy later determined that Jakob von Metzler had died on the day he was kidnapped, four days earlier. In silencing the boy, Gaefgen had covered the victim's nose and mouth with adhesive tape so that the youngster had suffocated as a result.
Daschner said his concern during the questioning of Gaefgen was that Jakob Metzler could be suffering from exposure or dehydration after so many days of captivity and so he ordered the "immediate coercion" threat to get the kidnapper to reveal where the boy was.
He told the court that the evening before, he had discussed with a Hessen state Interior Ministry official the theoretical possibility of using a threat of coercion.
"This was accepted with agreement. No legal concerns were raised," Daschner said, referring to the discussion about the coercion threat. "I saw my own legal opinion confirmed."
Daschner declined to name the Interior Ministry official. He did not want other people to be subjected to the kind of campaign that he and his family had been the target of over the past 21 months, he said.
The unnamed police investigator, 51, told the court that he had finally "emotionally reached" Gaefgen to get him to divulge where the victim was. There was no torture, the defendant insisted.
Gaefgen was sentenced to a life prison term in July 2003.
The case against police official Daschner has stirred controversy in Germany in a debate over when might it be appropriate for police to use force or the threat of force to get a suspect to talk.
German laws prohibit police from using force or the threat of torture, with punishment ranging from six months to five years.
Human rights groups want the Frankfurt case to make it clear that under no circumstances may the state apply torture.
But elsewhere, people agreed with Daschner's actions. An opinion poll by the weekly magazine Stern showed that two-thirds of the public supported him.
Newspapers and magazines were flooded by letters saying that the police official had faced an "exceptional" situation in the aim of trying to save the young boy's life.
Daschner himself has not denied that he ordered the use of the threat against Gaefgen in order to get the information police needed. He in fact kept careful written records of his actions and then turned them over to the Frankfurt prosecutor's office.
Subject: German news