New allegations rock German navy

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Discipline was even worse than feared on a three-masted German navy training ship at the centre of a scandal that has put the defence minister under pressure, Spiegel magazine reported on Tuesday.

The new allegations reportedly include death threats and aggressive sexual harassment against cadets on the Gorch Fock, a vessel at the centre of a spiralling scandal facing Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Trainers told one cadet that they were members of the Aryan Brotherhood, a gang and organised crime syndicate active in prisons in the United States keen on Nazi symbols, Spiegel reported on its website.

The trainee was approached by several trainers in the showers while the Gorch Fock was in the port of Las Palmas and instructed to pick up a shampoo bottle, telling him "being on the ship is like being in prison."

Trainers on the Gorch Fock also got "shamelessly drunk" during a stopover in an unnamed foreign port, set off fire alarms and forced a trainee to clear up vomit.

The captain of the ship, Norbert Schatz, who has since been suspended, was "seen in swimming trunks particularly often" and only taking part in the absolute minimum of duties.

Spiegel said the comments were made by cadets to Hellmut Koenigshaus, the parliamentary commissioner who presented his an annual report on abuses on the military on Tuesday.

Other cadets have said that chaotic conditions reigned on the three-masted vessel including rampant sexual innuendo and even cases of assault.

The Gorch Fock hit the headlines last week when it emerged that cadets had refused orders to climb the rigging after a 25-year-old female trainee plunged to her death off Salvador de Bahia in Brazil last November.

Spiegel reported that the night before Sarah Lena Seele's death -- the second in two years -- the trainers had a party, with one of them bursting drunk into the trainees' quarters and threatening to kill them.

Zu Guttenberg has suspended Commander Schatz pending an enquiry. Opposition leaders have accused the minister of seeking a scapegoat to cover up his own failure to shed light on the circumstances.

© 2011 AFP

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