Judge May Decide on Appeal to Free Honecker On Tuesday
BERLIN (AP) _ An appeal to free former East German boss Erich Honecker may be decided Tuesday, a judge said as the manslaughter trial of Honecker’s comrades went ahead without the cancer-stricken Communist leader.
Lawyers for Honecker, who is 80 and suffering from liver cancer, appealed to the Berlin Constitutional Court to order his immediate release from prison.
Judge Klaus Eschen of the Constitutional Court said such a ruling could come Tuesday: ″It would be conceivable,″ the judge told The Associated Press on Monday.
The Berlin District Court separated Honecker’s case from the main trial last week on grounds of his increasing weakness. He is due to appear in court Thursday when new medical assessments of his condition are to be considered.
Court-appointed doctors said in December his life expectancy was three to six months.
His lawyer, Wolfgang Ziegler, hopes Honecker will be freed before Thursday and permitted to join his wife and daughter in Chile.
Honecker and five other East German leaders are accused of manslaughter in the deaths of an estimated 350 people killed in escape attempts at the Berlin Wall or the borders to the West from 1961 to 1989, when Honecker’s rule collapsed under a popular revolt.
Co-defendant Fritz Streletz, deputy defense minister under Honecker, said Honecker should be called immediately as a witness, to refute the prosecution’s claim that there were orders to shoot people trying to escape.
But the District Court rejected the request.
Honecker and the others were members of East Germany’s National Security Council, which oversaw border security.
Also on trial are former East German Defense Minister Heinz Kessler and Hans Albrecht, a Communist Party chief in Suhl. Two other defendants have had their trials suspended on grounds of poor health. They are former Premier Willi Stoph, 78, and Erich Mielke, 85, former head of the feared secret police.