Espionage Trial of Turkish Auto Mechanic Starting Today
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ The trial of a Turkish auto mechanic accused of scheming to pass American military secrets to the Soviets and East Germans began today with jury selection.
Prosecutors have yet to reveal if an Army warrant officer named as a co- conspirator will testify, as expected, at the U.S. District Court trial of Huseyin Yildirim, 61.
U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield began jury selection in the trial of Yildirim, who was a mechanic at Field Station Berlin, a key eavesdropping base of the National Security Agency.
He is accused of scheming with Warrant Officer James William Hall III to provide military secrets to the Soviets and East Germans. Yildirim is charged with conspiracy to provide classified information.
Hall, who isn’t charged in the civil case, pleaded guilty to spying at his court-martial and was cashiered from the service and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The two men allegedly supplied the Soviets with secrets from 1983 to 1988 in an operation that intelligence officials have said may have endangered ground troops in Europe and inflicted serious damage to America’s electronic espionage capabilities.
Two women close to Yildirim, Peggy Bie and Ella Pettway, have been quoted as saying that Yildirim is innocent and was actually a double agent working on behalf of American intelligence.
The case is being tried here because Hall was assigned to the intelligence units at Fort Stewart, outside Savannah, before being indicted.
Yildirim was arrested in Balleair Beach, Fla., on Dec. 21. Edenfield ordered the records in the case sealed April 13, and the pretrial hearing in May was kept secret.
Hall, 30, an intelligence analyst in the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Stewart who spent much of his career in Europe, was sentenced to 40 years in prison and fined $50,000 during court martial proceedings at Fort McNair near Washington, D.C., in March.
He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of espionage, attempted espionage and failing to obey Army regulations. As part of his sentence, a military judge ordered Hall dishonorably discharged and required he forfeit all future Army pay and allowances.
Hall has cooperated with Army officials since his arrest, but the government has not revealed whether he will testify against Yildirim.