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Europe: Trial Of Former German Spy Chief Ends Next Week

Munich, 21 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A German court will decide next week whether the legendary spy chief of communist East Germany, Markus Wolf, should be jailed for his activities.

Wolf, 74, ran a highly-efficient espionage operation against West Germany from 1953-86 and lured many top officials and secretaries with access to secrets into working for him. But he is not on trial for spying. The four charges against him involve the kidnapping and blackmail of possible agents in west Germany and a defector from east Germany.

The prosecutor has demanded that the Dusseldorf court sentence him to three-and-a-half years imprisonment. The defense argues that there is no evidence to support the charges in some cases and others are covered by the statute of limitation and can no longer be prosecuted.

Wolf himself told the court this week that he was being prosecuted by the victors in the cold war espionage game and said that West Germany and its allies had carried out similar operations. He concluded his statement with a dramatic appeal to the German government to drop all charges against former East German agents as a contribution to German reunification.

Germany has been unsuccessful in efforts to prosecute Wolf for espionage and treachery. A conviction for treachery in 1993 was overturned by a higher court in 1995 which ruled that he was working legitimately for his own country, the GDR.

One of the present charges against Wolf is that in 1955 he organized the kidnapping to East Berlin of Christa Trapp, who was a secretary in the U.S. High Commission in West Berlin. It is alleged he tried to force her to spy for him by threatening the safety of her mother. The threats failed and Miss Trapp was soon returned to West Berlin. She now lives in the United States.

The defense answered the charge by reminding the court that such methods were common to both eastern and western espionage services in the 1950's and that in any case the alleged offense took place more than 40 years ago and is covered by the Statute of Limitations.

Wolf is also accused of arranging the 1959 arrest of a man named Georg Angerer, who had been an interpreter for the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Norway. The prosecution alleged that Wolf wanted to pressure Angerer into falsely accusing the strongly anti-communist Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt, of having been a Gestapo spy during the war. Brandt later went on to become German chancellor.

The defense said that in fact Angerer had been detained because there was good reason to believe that he had participated in nazi war crimes. The defense also pointed out that since Angerer is now dead there is no way his statements can be properly challenged after 38 years.

The other charges against Wolf involve an east German intelligence officer, Walter Thrane, who defected to the West in 1962. A little more than a month later both were kidnapped and taken back to east Germany by way of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Both were sentenced to long jail terms.

Wolf's defense lawyers demanded his acquittal on these charges, arguing there was no evidence to connect him with the affair. The defense lawyers said the charges against Wolf were based only on "hearsay." They also noted that other witnesses have given evidence that the kidnapping was arranged by the East German security chief Erich Mielke.

The end of the trial coincides with the publication of Wolf's memoirs, titled "Man Without a Face", as he was known in the west for many years. Wolf claims that after East Germany collapsed the U.S. intelligence agency, the CIA, offered him more than a million dollars, sanctuary and a new identity if he would provide details of his intelligence operations against the West and the names of his agents. The book is to appear in 13 countries. The first excerpts were published this week in the German magazine "Stern."