Soviet Spy Held in S. Africa Reportedly Among Prisoners to be Swapped
BERLIN (AP) _ A top Soviet spy held in South Africa will be involved in a major East-West prisoner exchange at a Berlin border bridge early next week, the West German newspaper Bild reported Thursday.
Bild, which broke the story of the prisoner exchange last weekend, said former South African marine commander Diter Gerhardt would be among 11 Communist agents handed over to the East.
Anatoly Shcharansky, a prominent Soviet human rights activist imprisoned since the late 1970s, was expected to be turned over to the West, too, the newspaper reported.
Western and Soviet bloc officials confirmed Bild’s initial report, and West German officials later said the swap is planned for Tuesday at Glienicke Bridge, site of the last major reported East-West prisoner exchange in June 1985.
Allied military sources in West Berlin said Thursday the trade would take place Monday or Tuesday on the bridge. About five people were expected to be exchanged by each side, the sources said.
Gerhardt, 50, was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa in early 1984 for providing information on British fleet movements in the 1982 Falklands War to the Soviets, said Bild.
Bild said Gerhardt worked at South Africa’s strategic Simonstown naval base, which has been used by NATO forces in the past. ″He knows countless top NATO secrets. He is the highest ranking East agent of the past year,″ Bild said.
Gerhardt’s wife, Ruth, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for turning over secret Western defense documents to the Soviets in Zurich, Switzerland, and Munich, West Germany. She is expected to be included in the Berlin swap, the newspaper said.
The bridge, which connects the Western enclave of West Berlin with Potsdam, a suburban city in Communist East Germany, is closed to regular traffic and is used only by Allied military officials and diplomats.
The imprisoned Soviet bloc agents likely to be handed over to the East on Tuesday include, according to Bild:
- Yevgeny Semliakov, a Soviet trade mission official in Cologne, West Germany, who was sentenced to three years imprisonment last September for trying to obtain high-technology equipment banned for export to Communist countries.
- Rolf Hecht, an East German intelligence agent who was sentenced in West Germany to six years imprisonment in 1981 for betraying secrets on the U.S. Tornado jet to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact alliance.
In Warsaw, chief government spokesman Jerzy Urban was quoted by a Western news agency as saying, ″One person is returning to Poland, and nobody will leave Poland in exchange for him. I only know the (prisoner’s) surname is Kaczmarek and that he was jailed in West Germany.″
Urban apparently was referring to Jerzy Kaczmarek, 33, who was arrested last March in connection with espionage allegedly carried out in Bremen and other areas of West Germany. Kaczmarek was identified as an officer of the Polish intelligence service.
A call by The Associated Press to Urban was not put through, but his secretary, who declined to be named, confirmed the remarks attributed to him by the other news agency, which provided them to the AP.
Urban also was quoted as saying the exchange was set for Tuesday, but he had ″no authorization″ to disclose where it would take place, which might ″bring the public there.″
Meanwhile Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Richard Burt arrived in West Berlin for a possible role overseeing the Western end of the prisoner swap. Burt guided the June 1985 exchange in which 25 Western agents held in the East were traded for four Communist spies held in the West.
Bild reported Wednesday that Britain and the Soviet Union were negotiating an exchange of jailed spies for next spring. The Hamburg-based newspaper, which has published several exclusive reports about the Soviets that later proved accurate, did not identify its sources.
On Thursday, Bild said President Reagan had instructed the American Embassy in Moscow to negotiate with Soviet authorities for the release of Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet scientist and human rights advocate who has been held in internal exile for six years.