Related topics

Legendary East German spy chief gets suspended sentence

May 27, 1997

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) _ He outwitted the West as East Germany’s spymaster and says the CIA offered him a safe new life in California after the Cold War. Now, Markus Wolf has triumphed again, escaping jail for a second time.

A court convicted Wolf of four kidnappings Tuesday but gave him only a suspended two-year sentence, mainly because the crimes happened during the Cold War. Prosecutors had demanded Wolf be jailed for 3 1/2 years.

Wolf, who ran East Germany’s foreign spy network for 33 years, was convicted of treason in 1993 but never served any jail time after Germany’s highest court overturned the conviction.

Once one of the West’s biggest foes, the 74-year-old Wolf had claimed charges against him are politically-motivated and courts have no legal right to pass judgment on events in the former East Germany.

``I’ve been sentenced for things I did while strictly following the constitution, laws and orders,″ Wolf told reporters surrounding him in the courthouse.

Tuesday’s ruling against Wolf, known during his clandestine years as ``the man without a face″ for his elusiveness, means he is unlikely ever to go to jail.

About two dozen Wolf supporters clapped when he entered the packed courtroom. An elderly woman handed him a bouquet of red roses, which he declined with a smile.

Wolf’s face turned stony as Presiding Judge Ina Obst-Oellers read the verdict finding him guilty on all counts, based largely on evidence from East German spy files and testimony by former Wolf aides.

The State Supreme Court convicted Wolf of deprivation of liberty in four kidnappings that were part of efforts by Wolf’s agents to destabilize the West and embarrass its leaders.

He was also convicted on two counts each of causing bodily harm and coercion. And although the court suspended his sentence, it ordered Wolf to pay $30,000 to a children’s charity.

Despite his trial, Wolf has recently upstaged German authorities with a flurry of publicity, causing a stir with memoirs that were excerpted last week in a German magazine and are due out in 13 countries on June 1.

In one excerpt of ``Man Without a Face,″ Wolf writes that after his retirement in 1990, a top CIA official offered him a home in California and a new identity if he cooperated with the U.S. spy agency.

Although accepting the offer meant putting him out of the reach of German prosecutors, Wolf says he turned it down because he would never have betrayed his ex-agents.

Germany’s highest court overturned Wolf’s treason conviction in 1995, saying East German spy leaders who worked only in their homeland could not be tried for treason because they did not betray their country.

In Tuesday’s verdict, Judge Obst-Oellers rejected claims that Wolf was tried as a ``symbol of the Stasi,″ East Germany’s spy network. Instead, she branded him an accomplice in ``state-ordered crimes″ against ``helpless victims.″

But she said Wolf deserved leniency because he was getting old, the crimes happened long ago, and he had demonstrated ``some remorse.″

As head of East Germany’s international spy network from 1953 until his 1986 retirement, Wolf planted some 4,000 agents in the West during the Cold War, and managed to steal NATO secrets for the Soviet bloc that could have been decisive if war had broken out in Europe.

In 1974, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt was forced to resign after a top aide, Guenther Guillaume, was unmasked as a Wolf agent.

Wolf fled to Moscow in 1990, the year of German reunification, but surrendered to German authorities a year later when no other country gave him political asylum.

In Wolf’s latest trial, prosecutors accused him of supervising the brutal abduction of an East German secret police defector and his girlfriend from Austria in 1962, and of ordering the 1959 detention of an East German in an effort to extort false statements labeling Brandt, then West Berlin mayor, a Nazi collaborator.

He was also charged with approving the 1955 abduction of a translator at the U.S. High Commissioner’s office in West Berlin in a failed attempt to get her to spy for East Germany.