Court Convicts Former East German Police Chief of 1931 Murders
BERLIN (AP) _ A court convicted former East German secret police chief Erich Mielke today of killing two policemen in Berlin more than 60 years ago.
The Superior Court sentenced Mielke, 85, to six years in prison, following a 20-month trial. He was once the No. 2 man in the Communist regime.
Mielke’s supporters accused Berlin justice authorities of persecuting him for his role as the head of East Germany’s dreaded secret police and foreign espionage network.
He was convicted of murdering two policemen in 1931, during one of the clashes between rightists and leftists that shook Berlin during the late 1920s and early the next decade.
The 23-year-old Communist agitator then fled to the Soviet Union, escaping murder charges brought by the Nazi regime that seized power in 1933.
Defense attorneys told the three judges and two jurors that prosecutors had built their case on a ″pack of lies″ furnished by Nazi investigators.
The Soviet KGB trained Mielke, and he returned to Germany after World War II to build the secret police in East Germany.
In 1957 he became minister for state security, heading what was nicknamed the Stasi in German. He held the job until Communism collapsed in 1989, defending the socialist system until the end.
Mielke, who was kept in prison during the trial, claims he is in failing health. Berlin’s highest court has scheduled a Nov. 11 hearing on his request for freedom on health reasons.
Mielke’s conviction has little to do with the hard-line Stalinist regime in which he served under party chief Erich Honecker, but his six-year sentence is similar to punishment handed out in a trial of other East German leaders for killings at the Berlin Wall.
Mielke was a defendant in that trial but was separated because of poor health. Three former officials were convicted of manslaughter last month and received sentences of 4 1/2 years to 7 1/2 years.
Mielke could face a resumption of the Berlin Wall killings trial, depending on his health. He is also the target of several other criminal investigations.