Bundeswehr spike in reported internal abuse complaints

DAILY SABAH WITH WIRES
Istanbul
Published

The German Defense Ministry confirmed a floating claim that there are a growing number of Bundeswehr personnel reporting all sorts of abuse.

"There is a clear connection between the high number of reports and the public discussion about certain cases," a spokesman for the ministry said.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been put under pressure in the past few months after stories of soldiers with far-right sympathies in the German Army made headlines.

The report published in the Düsseldorf-based Rheinische Post newspaper said that most of the cases revolve around superiors mistreating subordinates, the number doubling from 28 cases in 2016 to already 56 as of July 9 this year.

An additional 127 sexual abuse complaints were made compared to last year's 128.There have also been 96 reported incidents regarding personnel with right-wing extremist sympathies, up from 63 in 2016.

The bizarre case of a far-right soldier allegedly plotting an attack while posing as a Syrian refugee and several abuse scandals have sparked a war of words between Germany's defense minister and the military.

It is a dangerous political battle for von der Leyen, the first woman in charge of the armed forces, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She has sternly criticized military "attitude and leadership problems," highlighted by the case of the soldier and by the recent sexual abuse and hazing scandals.

This in turn has made her a target of chastened rank-and-file soldiers who charge she is tarring them all while dodging personal responsibility after more than three years on the job.

The escalating conflict started with the arrest a week ago of army lieutenant Franco Albrecht, 28, who was stationed at a Franco-German base near Strasbourg.

He came to the notice of the authorities after Austrian police caught him with a loaded handgun at the Vienna airport in February.

The subsequent investigation found that, amid Germany's 2015 mass influx of immigrants, he had created a fake identity as a Damascus fruit seller called "David Benjamin."

Incredibly, the German who speaks no Arabic managed to gain political asylum, a spot in a refugee shelter and monthly state benefits for his fictitious alter ego.

Prosecutors charge that Albrecht harbored far-right views and, with at least one co-conspirator, plotted an event with the apparent aim of discrediting foreigners.

Media reports claim he kept "death lists" with the names of top politicians, including former president Joachim Gauck, some cabinet ministers and left-leaning deputies. It has since emerged that the lieutenant had expressed unconventional views in a master's thesis he submitted in 2014, in which he theorized about the end of Western civilization through mass uncontrolled immigration.

In the paper seen by AFP, he argued that immigration was causing a "genocide" in Western Europe, adding that it's a "mathematical certainty" due to an uncontrolled influx of non-Europeans into the continent combined with irreplaceably low birthrates of the European population.

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