East, West German Negotiators Meet, Confirm Prisoner Swap
BERLIN (AP) _ East German negotiator Wolfgang Vogel and a high-ranking West German official have been meeting secretly to work out an East-West spy and prisoner exchange involving Anatoly Shcharansky, U.S. and West German sources said today.
The sources confirmed a report in Friday’s Bild newspaper of Hamburg that a top Soviet spy arrested in South Africa, Diter Gerhardt, will be among the Communist agents traded for the Soviet dissident and other prisoners in the East bloc.
Shcharansky, a prominent Soviet human rights activist, has been imprisoned since the late 1970s.
The U.S. and West German sources spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. They said they were uncertain if Gerhardt’s wife, Ruth, also imprisoned for espionage, would be traded as well.
Jerzy Kaczmarek, a Polish spy arrested in the West, was also slated to be exchanged, the sources said.
They said Vogel and Ludwig Rehlinger, minister of state in Bonn’s Ministry for Intra-German relations, have been meeting outside Berlin, but would not say where.
They could not say whether U.S. or Soviet negotiators were also present at the secret talks.
They said Vogel and Rehlinger have been planning the East-West prisoner exchange and that it was expected to take place Tuesday at Glienicke Bridge, site of the last major reported East-West prisoner exchange last June in Berlin.
There is a strong possibility that after the exchange Shcharanksy will fly to Frankfurt and then board a flight for Tel Aviv, the sources said.
Vogel may meet with U.S. Ambassador Richard Burt over the weekend in Berlin, one source said. Vogel, an East Berlin attorney, negotiated the June trade for the East and has also been the main East bloc negotiator in the pending trade, the sources said.
Burt, who guided the June exchange, flew to Berlin Thursday afternoon. He was expected to stay in the divided city until next week, with the exception of a day trip to Heidelberg for a speech Saturday.
In the June exchange, 25 Western agents imprisoned in the East were traded for four indicted or convicted Communist agents.
Gerhardt, 50, was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa in early 1984 for providing information on British fleet movements in the 1982 Falklands War to the Soviets, said Bild.
Bild said Gerhardt worked at South Africa’s strategic Simonstown naval base, which has been used by NATO forces in the past. ″He knows countless top NATO secrets. He is the highest ranking East agent of the past year,″ Bild said.
The bridge, which connects the Western enclave of West Berlin with Potsdam, a suburban city in Communist East Germany, is closed to regular traffic and is used only by Allied military officials and diplomats.
The imprisoned Soviet bloc agents likely to be handed over to the East on Tuesday include, according to Bild:
- Yevgeny Semliakov, a Soviet trade mission official in Cologne, West Germany, who was sentenced to three years in prison last September for trying to obtain high-technology equipment banned for export to Communist countries.
- Rolf Hecht, an East German intelligence agent who was sentenced in West Germany to six years in 1981 for betraying secrets on the U.S. Tornado jet to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact alliance.
Bild has published several exclusive reports about the Soviets that later proved accurate. It did not identify its sources for its reports on the prisoner exchange.