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German Navy captain sacked; dead cadet's mother demands investigation

Other News Materials 22 January 2011 15:57
After the sacking of a German Navy captain over a breakdown of command on his ship, the mother of a cadet who was killed on board has demanded an inquiry into the death, the German news weekly Focus reported Saturday.
German Navy captain sacked; dead cadet's mother demands investigation

After the sacking of a German Navy captain over a breakdown of command on his ship, the mother of a cadet who was killed on board has demanded an inquiry into the death, the German news weekly Focus reported Saturday.

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is under pressure over the long delay in releasing data about the death, which took place in November.

Guttenberg dismissed the captain, Norbert Schatz, on Friday, ordering the training ship Gorch Fock to "return directly to Germany" under a new command and removing the vessel from active duty until further notice.

The ship was Thursday ordered to return to its last port of call, the southern Argentine town of Ushuaia, so investigators could board it. It had been sailing without any cadets on board after the November blowup.

The German Navy forges a fighting team spirit in its cadets by training them on the Gorch Fock. The 25-year-old female cadet fell from a yardarm to the deck and died of her injuries. Sullen cadets then questioned the harsh training in what media called a "mutiny."

Focus reported that the dead cadet's mother has filed a formal police complaint of negligent homicide by the federal government.

   Her daughter fell 27 metres from the rigging to the wooden deck while setting sail for the ship to leave a north-eastern Brazilian port on November 7. Focus said she succumbed to her injuries 12 hours later.

"No one will tell me exactly what happened when my daughter was killed," the mother was quoted as saying. She suspected a cover-up, according to the Focus report.

   The police investigation, which began well before the mother's complaint, was at the point of being closed with a finding that there was no criminal behaviour by the ship's officers and regular crew, who together train the cadets, the report said.

Cadets have complained to an ombudsman that they were "forced" to climb the masts, even if they were terrified of heights and the danger, by the fear that they would fail the course and not be promoted to officer.

   It quoted Bernd Winterfeldt, a Kiel prosecutor supervising the inquiry, as saying: "Some of the training course students might have interpreted it as pressure." But he said this had "no significance in terms of criminal law."

There have been further allegations that three Gorch Fock officers made sexually threatening remarks to a male trainee.

Guttenberg has come under criticism in recent days over a trio of military embarrassments, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to come to his defence Friday. She said through a spokesperson that she was certain he measured up to his duties.

The other two cases where the defence minister is under fire involve an Army unit manning an outpost in Afghanistan.

Soldiers there claim that someone tampered with their mail. Later, a soldier was shot dead in a 12-man tent at the outpost. So far the Army has said the killing was an accident where another man mishandled a loaded gun, DPA reported.

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