Ousted East German Leader Arrested And Jailed With PM-East Germany, Bjt
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ Ousted East German leader Erich Honecker was arrested and taken to prison today, and a prosecutor said he will tried for high treason in March.
Honecker, 77, was detained after his release from East Berlin’s Charite hospital, where he had undergone surgery for a malignant kidney tumor, the official ADN news agency said.
Chief Prosecutor Hans-Juergen Joseph told Parliament that Honecker and former Politburo members Erich Mielke, Guenter Mittag and Joachim Herrmann would be tried by the Supreme Court on treason charges in March. All four have been expelled from the party.
Mielke was Honecker’s security chief, Mittag oversaw the economy and Herrmann headed the party’s propaganda department. Eleven members of Honecker’s ousted Politburo already are in prison awaiting trial.
Honecker’s lawyer, Wolfgang Vogel, asked the chief prosecutor to free the former leader from Rummelburg prison based on a doctor’s statement that he is too ill to stay in jail, ADN said. Vogel is East Germany’s most prominent lawyer.
One of Honecker’s doctors, Horst Vogler, said the former leader was “very depressed” and his mental state “impaired” following two major surgical operations since August.
West German television showed an impassive Honecker being led out of the hospital by his wife, Margot, in pre-dawn darkness. She kissed him goodbye before he was taken away in a large limousine.
Honecker’s daughter, son-in-law and youngest grandchild also came to see him off at the hospital, ADN quoted Vogler as saying.
The charge of high treason carries a maximum life imprisonment. The conviction used to carry the death penalty, but that was abolished in reforms that followed Honecker’s ouster Oct. 18.
East Germany has been caught up in a virtual frenzy to root out corruption and abuse of office.
Honecker, the aging hard-line Stalinist leader who ruled East Germany for 18 years, had previously been declared too ill to withstand imprisonment.
ADN said the director of Charite urology clinic, Dr. Peter Althaus, repeated today that in his opinion Honecker is still not well enough to be jailed.
On Sunday, West Germany’s mass-circulation Bild newspaper said Honecker would be arrested but that he would be held at a prison hospital because of his condition. ADN did not say whether Rummelsburg prison is equipped with a medical facility.
Earlier this month, East Germany’s Luthern Church had offered to put Honecker up in a home for the aged up his release from the hospital.