Ex-Politburo members go freeover Berlin Wall deaths
6 August 2004
BERLIN – A court in Berlin Friday allowed two former East German Communist Party Politburo members to go free in connection with three of the last Berlin Wall shooting deaths that occurred before the Wall came down.
Hans-Joachim Boehme, 74, and Siegfried Lorenz, 73, received suspended 15-month sentences on conviction of charges of incitement to commit murder in the Wall deaths. The court cited the defendants’ advanced age in explaining why they should not serve time behind bars.
Both men were acquitted by another court in July 2000, but an appeals court in 2002 overturned the verdicts and demanded a retrial.
At issue was the two officials’ role as members of the Politburo in the mid-1980s, during which time they voted in favour of shoot-to-kill regulations along the border to West Germany.
Subsequently, three men were killed trying to flee to the West, including 20-year-old Chris Gueffroy in February 1989. Gueffroy was the last person killed by border guards before the Wall came down the following November.
Friday’s proceedings before Berlin State Court Judge Gabriele Strobel come just two months after the same judge convicted a third former Politburo member in a retrial on the same charges.
But Judge Strobel, in handing down the conviction on 11 May waived sentence against Haeber because of his efforts to change the system from inside.
Haeber, 73, argued that he attempted to work from within to reform the Communist regime and that his pro-reform stance was the reason he was ousted from the Politburo in late 1985 and sent to a psychiatric clinic. At the time, it was announced that he was retiring for health reasons.
Waiving a prison term, Judge Strobel explained, “Herr Haeber deserves a degree of respect for having done his utmost to change the system from inside.”
The same court earlier handed down a 10-month suspended sentence against a former East German border guard in connection with one of the deaths.
Subject: German news