Honecker Under House Arrest; Chief Prosecutor Resigns
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ Former Communist Party chief Erich Honecker and other members of his ousted leadership have been put under house arrest at their luxury residential compound, the official news agency ADN said today.
Also, East Germany’s chief prosecutor resigned after mounting criticism he could not handle investigations into abuses of power by ousted Communist leaders.
And the Communist government agreed to lift visa requirements for West Germans as of Jan. 1, meeting one of the main conditions Bonn had set for improved relations with East Germany.
The 25-member interim committee guiding East Germany’s Communist Party appealed to citizens for calm to avoid ″anarchy and chaos.″
But there were growing reports of bands of angry citizens converging on local headquartes of the once-dreaded secret police to prevent the destruction of documents that could be used in corruption trials.
About 2,000 East Germans forced their way into the secret police headquarters in Suhl, ADN said. It quoted local secret police chief, Gerhard Lenge, as saying that documents there had already been destroyed.
Citizens also stormed the secret police headquarters in the city of Erfurt, the news agency said.
Honecker lost his job in a major power reshuffle on Oct. 18 and on Sunday he was ousted from the party he had led for 18 years. He was replaced as party leader by Egon Krenz, who resigned under pressure Sunday along with his Politburo and Central Committee.
″The former general-secretary and president Erich Honecker is among those who are not allowed to leave their houses in the elegant compound,″ ADN reported. The Wandlitz compound near Berlin has 23 houses used by Politburo members and their families.
ADN said all former Politburo members who were still living at Wandlitz also were held there.
It was not immediately clear when Honecker was arrested. The 77-year-old former leader has been in ill health following surgery last summer and has been a virtual recluse in Wandlitz since October.
Honecker and his inner circle are under investigation for suspected corruption; three former Politburo members already are in prison pending investigation.
ADN gave no reason for prosecutor Guenter Wendland’s resignation.
Wendland was a holdover from Honecker’s hard-line government and had been leading a probe of police accused of beating and mistreating pro-democracy protesters following massive rallies in early October.
A group of lawyers and legal experts had demanded his resignation, saying he was too close to the now-disgraced former power structure to handle the probes.
Late today, Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s chief of staff, Rudolf Seiters, told reporters in East Berlin that the Communist government will lift visa requirements for West Germans as of Jan. 1. The government also will lift the rule requiring West Germans to exchange $13 per day when visiting East Germany.
West Germany has called for reunification of the countries, a proposal rejected by the Communists and some opposition activists. But late Monday, about 200,000 people rallied in Leipzig, calling for reunification and shouting ″Germany, United Fatherland.″
The move against the secret police was the latest in a series of searches and seizures.
Prosecutors sealed off secret police offices in East Berlin where large sums of money and files had apparently been packaged for transport, ADN said. They acted on a tip from citizens keeping watch outside.
Growing public outrage has led citizens to stand guard at some public buildings to make sure that no potential criminal evidence is smuggled away.
ADN said investigators discovered bundles of secret police files in a ″sensitive area,″ packed for transport. Citizens in East Berlin had become suspicious when they spotted lights on in several secret police offices where the shades had been pulled. They notified police.
The prosecutor sealed several offices and ordered police to guard them.
During the search, one person carrying two large suitcases left the building through a side door but was stopped by a group of citizens who turned him over to police, ADN said.
Prosecutor Rainer Glawe permitted Olaf Klein, a member of the opposition group New Forum, to observe the investigation.
Glawe later said the person who had been apprehended was freed after identification, but that the two suitcases contained ″large sums of (East German) marks and foreign currencies.″
″Apparently, according to what is known, the money was intended for a contact person of Swedish nationality for further delivery to fake companies to which the name Schalck-Golodkowski has been connected,″ ADN said.
Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski was East Germany’s chief trade negotiator. He is being sought as a fugitive in connection with shady currency and weapons deals and disappeared this weekend.
East Germany’s ambassador in Switzerland, Eckard Bibow, said today the country has issued an international warrant for Schalck-Golodkowski’s arrest.
In the first direct cooperation, the temporary committee running the Communist Party joined with opposition groups to form a commission to investigate charges of corruption.
The Central Committee building in East Berlin was ringed by security officials who checked cars and bags of officials leaving the party headquarters.
Offices and safes of former officials were placed under guard to prevent them from destroying or spiriting away documents.