German military investigates systematic opening of soldiers′ letters | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.01.2011
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German military investigates systematic opening of soldiers' letters

Germany's parliamentary commissioner for the military has raised concerns about the systematic opening of letters from German soldiers in Afghanistan, calling on the Defense Ministry to investigate.

A stack of letters

It remains unclear who is opening soldiers' mail

Germany's Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Hellmut Königshaus, has called attention what appears to be systematic opening of German Bundeswehr soldiers' letters from Afghanistan to recipients back in Germany.

According to German media, Königshaus sent a letter to Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg informing him of the situation and calling on him to investigate.

Speaking on German public television, Guttenberg said "the opening of letters from soldiers is an unacceptable situation, and an investigation was ordered immediately."

Specific group of soldiers affected

In his letter to Guttenberg this week, Königshaus said that during a visit to troops in Afghanistan, he became aware that many soldiers - especially those stationed in Masar-i-Scharif in the last three months - had their letters to Germany opened.

A German flag waving on a tank

Masar-i-Sharif is a base for German soldiers

The letters arrived at their destination, many of them opened but with their contents intact, although some also had their contents removed.

Königshaus added that there were numerous places along the delivery route of a letter from Afghanistan that the mail could be opened.

The head of the Bundeswehr association, the soldiers' trade union, Ulrich Kirsch, said in an interview with the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that soldiers had the same rights as normal citizens when it came to the privacy of their mail.

"These rights can only be reduced as a result of military requirements," said Kirsch. "But I can't imagine that includes reading other people's letters, unless there is an indication that something is going on which would have criminal implications."

Author: Matt Zuvela (AFP, dapd, dpa)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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