`Man with no face' defiant in latest trial

 

LEGENDARY East German spymaster Mr Markus Wolf went on trial yesterday charged with three cases of Cold War skulduggery which could have come straight from the pages of a classic espionage thriller.

Mr Markus (73), who ran East Berlin's foreign intelligence network for over 30 years, strongly rebutted charges brought by prosecutors in his opening statement to the court.

Long known to western security services as "The Man with No Face" (for 20 years they had only a 1959 photograph of him) Mr Wolf entered the court arm-in-arm with his wife pursued by a pack of press photographers and television cameras with a fixed smile on his face.

"I declare myself to be not guilty," said Mr Wolf. "I did not violate either the constitution of the country I served or its laws."

Mr Wolf was convicted of treason in the same Dusseldorf courtroom in 1993. But Germany's highest court overturned the decision in 1995 saying Mr Wolf could not be convicted of spying on what was then a foreign country - West Germany.

This time prosecutors have charged Wolf with crimes under East German law - abduction, coercion and causing bodily harm.

"Now the Federal Prosecutor is trying to turn me into an ordinary criminal," Mr Wolf told the court, accusing prosecutors of staging the trial for purely political reasons to discredit the East German system and its leaders.

Prosecutors also revived a charge from Mr Wolf's original trial of acting as a secret agent for a foreign power. The charges relate to intelligence work in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr Wolf said he was not directly involved in the 1962 kidnapping of a former officer from the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) who had fled to Austria.

Mr Wolf ran a network of around 4,000 foreign-based agents from his East Berlin headquarters. One of his biggest coups was planting "mole" Gunter Guillaume inside Chancellor Willy Brandt's office - leading to Mr Brandt's resignation in 1974.

In his statement to the court, Mr Wolf also defended his record in the case of Mr Georg Angerer, an East German citizen held in custody for half a year in 1959.

Prosecutors say intelligence officials tried to force Mr Angerer to make defamatory statements about Mr Brandt, who was then mayor of West Berlin.

But Mr Wolf insisted Mr Angerer was held not to help fabricate lies about Mr Brandt but to find out whether the Social Democrat politician had ever collaborated with the Nazis.

The third case prosecutors have brought against Mr Wolf involves a 1955 attempt by East German intelligence to persuade Ms Christa Trapp, a German translator at the US High Commission in West Berlin, to spy for them.