MARCH 12, 14:29 EST

Germany Mulls Sampling DNA of Males
Associated Press Writer

Police handout of a sketch of a suspect in the murder of 12-year-old Ulrike Brandt, which was displayed during a news conference in Eberswalde, Germany, on March 9. Some German politicians have proposed collecting genetic material from the entire adult male population. (AP Photo/HO)
BERLIN (AP) — As Germany confronts the horror of a 12-year-old girl's rape and strangulation, some politicians are proposing a radical approach to solving the crime — collecting genetic material from the entire adult male population of 41 million.

Government privacy experts say the idea is neither legally nor physically feasible, and one government lawmaker called it an ``Orwellian surveillance fantasy.''

Still, Germans have in the past allowed DNA testing to investigate sex crimes — and with success. The testing of 16,400 men in northwestern Germany led to the 1998 arrest of a man who confessed to raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl.

Authorities are not yet contemplating that step in the eastern town of Eberswalde, where Ulrike Brandt's body was discovered in a wooded area on Thursday, police spokesman Gerald Pillkuhn said.

But they are under huge pressure to produce results — a 130-member police unit is investigating the slaying, and a reward for evidence leading to the girl's killer has swelled from $26,200 to $90,500 since Friday.

An autopsy showed the girl had been raped and strangled, probably soon after her Feb. 22 disappearance, and police said evidence collected near the body would help create a ``genetic fingerprint'' of the killer.

``We'll get him, Ulrike,'' Cologne's Express newspaper wrote this weekend. ``Where were you, God?'' asked the mass-circulation Bild daily, expressing the general despair over the killing.

The legal affairs spokesman for the opposition Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union, Norbert Geis, raised the heat when he urged testing for all German men in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper, saying tougher sentences have proved no deterrent.

``Only if criminals know with a probability bordering on certainty that they risk being identified will we be able to help prevent terrible crimes such as the one against little Ulrike,'' he said.

That unleashed a torrent of condemnation, with reactions that reflected deep suspicion of such methods in a nation with both fascist and communist dictatorships in living memory.

``Setting up a database with the genetic fingerprints of every man in Germany is pure Orwellian fantasy,'' said Volker Beck, a lawmaker with the Greens party, the junior partner in the governing coalition.

The government commissioner who oversees privacy laws was more diplomatic, describing the proposal as ``well-meant.'' Still, Joachim Jacob noted that German law requires a suspicion of an offense before genetic fingerprinting can be carried out.

Germany took the first step toward institutionalizing DNA tests in 1998 when parliament approved legislation to set up a national database of DNA from sex offenders and other criminals.

But Justice Ministry spokesman Christian Arns said there was no chance of extending the tests to the broader population.

``This unspeakable proposal runs against our constitution and can't be reconciled with the law that human dignity is inviolable,'' he said.

Even the Christian Democrats' chairwoman, Angela Merkel, described it as ``constitutionally problematic.''

``You can never rule out abuses with such measures,'' said Klaus Hahnzog, a legal expert for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats.

``Where do you set the limit? Why not collect fingerprints from everyone at birth? Why not impose measures that make it possible to track everyone's exact position by satellite at any time?''

Copyright 2001 Associated Press.