E. German spymaster calls charges 'absurd'

May 05, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

DUESSELDORF, Germany -- The Cold War's most notorious spymaster, Markus Wolf, went on trial yesterday in united Germany, contending that he faces "absurd" charges of treason, bribery and espionage "because the public wants to see a scapegoat."

Cool and occasionally wry, the former chief of Communist East Germany's embarrassingly successful espionage network defended his 30-year career of stealing the West's most precious secrets as an honorable duty to a sovereign state whose laws he did not break.

"Which country am I supposed to have betrayed?" the silver-haired Mr. Wolf asked in a six-page statement that took 20 minutes to read.

"I respect the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany, whether I like them or not," he said, "but I did not become a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany until Oct. 3, 1990" -- the date of German unification.

Mr. Wolf, 70, said he was a "scapegoat" in "the last campaign of the Cold War."

The five-judge panel dismissed defense motions to suspend the trial until the nation's highest court rules on the constitutionality of cases such as Mr. Wolf's, which, in effect, hold former East Germans accountable to West German laws.

Most of yesterday's session dealt with the motions to dismiss, and with Mr. Wolf's formal statement. Asked whether he would be making any further statement during the trial or providing any details about his past, Mr. Wolf answered with a simple "Nein."

The 398-page indictment against Mr. Wolf recounts some of the boldest exploits of some of the estimated 4,000 agents he is believed to have run, including hundreds of "moles" who penetrated every corner of West German intelligence.

Mr. Wolf decried what he perceives as a double standard by the federal prosecutor.

"One result of this inequality before the law is that I, as the former head of the intelligence agency of one German state, stand before the court while the former head of exactly the same agency in the other German state is now foreign minister of united Germany," Mr. Wolf said.

Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel is the former chief of the Bonn government's federal intelligence agency.

If convicted, Mr. Wolf could face life in prison on the treason charge alone.

The trial is expected to last at least until autumn; Mr. Wolf remains free on bail, writing his second set of memoirs.

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