Newspaper: Honecker to be Handed Over To Berlin Prosecutors Soon
BERLIN (AP) _ The Bild newspaper reported today that the Soviets will soon hand over former East German leader Erich Honecker to Berlin prosecutors, but German officials expressed doubts about the report.
The 78-year-old Communist leader, who was ousted from power in October 1989, has been given refuge in a Soviet military hospital outside Berlin.
Prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant charging him with the deaths of more than 200 people who were killed trying to flee the former East Germany. Many were shot by guards. Honecker has denied responsibility.
″That’s probably a rumor that they are reporting,″ Juergen Schmid, spokesman for the Justice Ministry in Bonn, said of the Bild report.
Jutta Burghart, a spokeswoman for the Berlin prosecutor’s office, said she was ″very skeptical″ about the report.
German authorities have asked the Soviets to hand over Honecker for possible trial, and officials in Bonn and Berlin say they are still waiting for an answer.
″The Soviets soon will hand over Erich Honecker to German justice authorities,″ Bild reported, quoting unnamed government sources. Bild said the Soviets had expressed their willingness to do so through ″secret contacts.″
Only ″health aspects″ involving Honecker must first be cleared up, Bild said.
Honecker and his lawyers claim he is too ill to leave the Soviets’ hospital in Beelitz. At one point, the Soviets transferred him a cardiology unit, indicating they also believed the claims.
German authorities have requested permission to send doctors to make an independent determination.
Bild’s report, which will appear in Saturday’s editions, was sent in advance to news media by telex.