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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 16:04 GMT
Policeman admits torture threat
By Ray Furlong
BBC correspondent, Berlin

German prosecutors have filed charges against a deputy head of police after he ordered officers to threaten a suspect with torture.

Wolfgang Daschler, of the Frankfurt police department, has admitted issuing the order to try to find the whereabouts of a kidnapped boy.

The child, who was 11 years old, was subsequently found killed.

The case has caused public debate in Germany about whether such means might be justified in extreme circumstances.

'Intense pain'

German police with a suspect
The policeman admitted issuing the order
Mr Daschler has argued he was utterly justified in threatening the man, who was held in police custody.

The events took place in September 2002, when the police were searching for the boy, Jakob von Metzler, a rich banker's son, who had been kidnapped.

On Mr Daschler's orders, Frankfurt police threatened the suspect with "intense pain" if he did not reveal the whereabouts of Jakob.

The man then confessed to having already killed Jakob, and told the police where the body was.

He is now serving a life prison sentence.

Echoes of Nazis

The case raises difficult issues.

Most Germans acknowledge that Mr Daschler wanted to save an innocent young life, and believe that the threat would not have actually been carried out.

But there are still also strong memories here of the use of torture by the Nazis.

German state prosecutors have now concluded that while Mr Daschler's motives were understandable, the threat of torture was not acceptable, and had breached elementary constitutional rights.


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