BERLIN (AP) _ Swept up in the turmoil of 1930s Germany, a young Communist agitator named Erich Mielke shot and killed two Berlin policemen during a demonstration.

Mielke fled to Moscow and returned to Berlin to become Communist East Germany's powerful secret police chief after the war.

On Tuesday, a city court convicted Mielke, now 85, of murder in the policemen's deaths. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

''Erich Mielke is entered in history books as one of the most dreaded dictators and police ministers,'' Chief Judge Theodor Seidel said.

Yet the Superior Court's verdict had little to do with Mielke's iron fist, second only to that of Communist Party leader Erich Honecker.

Many spectators during the 20-month trial were Mielke's supporters, though Dora Zimmermann, daughter of one of the two slain officers, regularly attended the sessions.

When police charged demonstrators outside Communist Party headquarters on Aug. 9, 1931, the 23-year-old Mielke pulled out a pistol, fatally shooting officers Paul Anlauf and Frank Lenck.

Mielke's flight to the Soviet Union let him escape murder charges. While the Nazis ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, the Soviet secret police trained Mielke in Moscow.

In 1957 he became minister for state security, heading the secret police, called Stasi in German, that systematically spied and imprisoned East Germans suspected of Western sympathies.

Mielke held the regime's No. 2 job until Communism collapsed in 1989, and defended it until the end.

Today he's the target of several criminal probes. His foreign spymaster, Markus Wolf, is on trial for treason and espionage in Duesseldorf.

Clutching a cane, Mielke sat impassively as the verdict was read. But his supporters in the spectators' section heckled the court, yelling ''fascist'' and ''Freisler justice.''

Ronald Freisler was the fanatic head of the People's Court, an infamous tribunal that sentenced Nazi opponents to death during the Third Reich.

Mielke's attorneys argued prosecutors built their case on a ''pack of lies'' furnished by Nazi investigators. They say they'll appeal.

Mielke, who spoke only briefly during the trial, has requested freedom on grounds his health is failing. Berlin's highest court has scheduled a Nov. 11 hearing.