Eighteen German soldiers were indicted Monday in the wake of a scandal surrounding the alleged abuse of´more than 160 military recruits, using electrical shocks and beatings.
They have it tough enough as it is: Army recruits practice with weapons
A captain at a barracks in the western town of Coesfeld and 17 non-commissioned officers are "believed to bear most of the guilt" in the case, chief prosecutor Wolfgang Schweer said.
A soldier salutes
The prosecution of 20 other suspects will be conducted separately.
The accused are believed to have mistreated 163 of their charges in the German army, or Bundeswehr, during four exercises. They used low-grade electrical shocks, punches and kicks. The case made national headlines when it emerged last November.
Germany's armed forces are still smarting from the allegations. At the time, it was alleged that several low-ranking officers mistreated Bundeswehr recruits during basic training; the perpetrators used methods that were said to be modeled on the US military torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
Recruits on the march
But the issue turned out to be more widespread than anyone thought at first, with additional incidences of hazing coming to light as a result of follow-up investigations.
At the time, Bundeswehr spokesman Bernhard Gertz said troops in Coesfeld had been tortured with electrical shocks, had their noses held shut and water poured down their throats. He cited members of the unit charged with the training the soldiers.
Link to Abu Ghraib?
"This incident is extremely upsetting because it soils the image of the Bundeswehr," Gertz told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper in November.
A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad
The first incident reportedly took place a year ago, in June, at the same time that shocking pictures of torture of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers went around the world. Whether the soldiers responsible for the mistreatment were inspired by the events at Abu Ghraib is uncertain. However, they did allegedly use similar methods, including hooding their victims, stripping them and photographing them.