Prosecutors on Friday filed charges against Frankfurt's former deputy police chief for ordering threats of violence against the chief suspect in the kidnapping and murder of a prominent banker's 11-year-old son.
Convicted killer Magnus Gäfgen (l.) told police of his victim's whereabouts following the threats.
Wolfgang Daschner, who has since been moved to an administrative post within the state interior ministry, is being charged with "serious coercion." The detective whom he asked to threaten a suspect is facing similar charges, according to prosecutors.
Daschner maintains threats were necessary to locate the boy
Daschner allegedly ordered officers to threaten the suspected kidnapper of 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler, Magnus Gäfgen, with "intense pain" during questioning in October 2002. Gäfgen, who had given the police a number of false locations for the boy's whereabouts, immediately told officers where he had hid Jakob's body and belongings after the threats. A Frankfurt judge sentenced Gäfgen, who had kidnapped the boy Sept. 27, 2002 and received €1 million ($1.26 million) in ransom money, to 15 years to life in prison on July 29, 2003.
Torture threats a serious crime
Reports of the alleged torture threats sparked a debate in Germany when they first came out in January 2003. Torture in any form is illegal in Germany and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
The judge in the Gäfgen case, however, said the torture allegations did not affect his ruling on the convicted murderer's guilt.
"With the threat of torture, the police did grave damage to the rule of law of this country," Judge Hans Bachl told the court at the time. "Their guilt, however, has nothing to do with Gäfgen's guilt."
Prosecutors immediately launched an investigation into the incident and Daschner was temporarily suspended.
Deputy chief says threats were crucial to finding boy
The 50-year-old police veteran has defended his actions. He said his threats to employ a martial arts expert to hurt Gäfgen were necessary to locate Jakob, who police believed was still alive. Gäfgen told them after his confession that he had killed the boy four days before police found the body on Oct. 2, 2002.
He was backed initially by Frankfurt Police Chief Harald Weiss-Bollandt. But Weiss-Bollandt dropped his support as prosecutors began gathering evidence.
International human rights organizations, like Amnesty International, as well as the police union, have greeted the decision by Frankfurt's chief prosecutor.
"We hope that the decision will also make clear that torture, in any case and without restraint, is not allowed and will continue not to be allowed," said Wolfgang Genz of Amnesty International Germany, according to wire reports.