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AFGHANISTAN

Soldier denies killing comrade in prank

A German soldier who accidentally shot dead another soldier in Afghanistan testified Wednesday that the accident was caused by a jammed gun, not a prank. The 21-year-old is facing charges of manslaughter and disobeying orders.

Soldier denies killing comrade in prank
Photo: DPA

In a statement at the start of the soldier’s trial in the eastern German town of Gera, the prosecutor claimed he was aiming a P8 handgun at his comrade’s head when it accidentally fired a round. The incident happened inside a tent in an army outpost near the Afghan city of Pol-i Khomri in December 2010.

The prosecution’s case is based on witness statements and a technical report that apparently rules out the weapon misfiring.

The accused soldier claimed that the shot went off when he hit the bottom of the magazine because it had jammed. After it went off, the soldier said he threw the gun on a nearby bed and rushed to the injured man’s aid. His comrades then sent him out of the tent.

The soldier also denied that he had been playing a prank on the victim. He said he had pointed the gun at the door, and not realized that the victim had come in. “I was concentrating on my weapon,” he said.

At the time of the incident, the soldier said he had already spent two months at the camp, and was extremely tense because he had been assigned to go on a mission the next day. He added that the soldiers in the camp were under orders to carry a loaded weapon at all times.

A 20-year-old witness testified that the accused pointed the weapon at the victim’s head. “There was an unbelievable bang and fog in the tent,” he said, before describing how the accused’s face went pale as he walked to the bed and put the gun down, while someone else screamed.

The witness also said he did not notice the accused hitting the bottom of the magazine beforehand and that the handgun the army uses was very reliable if properly cared for. “It can only go off if I pull the trigger,” he said. He added that their instructions were not to use force if the gun was jammed, but to put the safety on and remove the magazine.

But the witness also added that constantly carrying a loaded gun round meant that many soldiers lost their respect for their weapons. He said many soldiers played games with their guns, despite instructions not to.

Another witness confirmed that soldiers occasionally indulged in gun-play, and often took photos of each other posing with the weapons pointed at each other.

The accused was discharged from the army in March and is currently in training to be a mechanic.

DAPD/The Local/bk

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CRIME

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

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