News leak on German spy swap causes some to back out of deal

The premature press leaks of a spectacular spy swap -- presumably by a West German opponent of the swap -- took their toll. When the sensitive negotiations became public knowledge, South Africa, France, and Denmark backed out of them and declined to release the Soviet (in the case of South Africa) and East German (in the case of France and Denmark) agents.

The deal as finally consummated the weekend of Oct. 2 involved only East and West Germans -- thus some West Germans Bonn had hoped to free are still in East German jails.

Permitting some 3,000 ordinary East Germans who want to emigrate to West Germany to do so -- against a West German ransom said to be several million marks -- still seems to be in the works. Inter-German Relations Minister Egon Franke told a West German interviewer that the figure 3,000 would not be too high. He added that this would be the largest number of East Germans ever allowed to leave at one time.

The linchpin of the spy trade was Gunter Guillaume, the East German master spy who was personal aide to then-Chancellor Willy Brandt -- and whose unmasking in 1974 led to Brandt's resignation. Turned over to East Germany along with Guillaume were Renate Lutze, a former Defense Ministry secretary convicted of espionage in 1979, and two other unnamed East German agents.

In exchange, West Germany got back about 30 persons who had been in East German prisons.

There has been some speculation that negotiation for release of the other East German spies may be continuing. Unconfirmed reswap may be continuing. Unconfirmed reports say that France is using East German Gen. Heinz Bernhard Zorn to bid for release of a prominent Soviet dissident -- possibly Jewish emigration activist Anatoly Shcharansky, Helsinki Watch committee member Yuri Orlov, or the dean of Soviet dissidents, physicist Andrei Sakharov.

In the wake of the premature publicity, Denmark has officially refused early pardon of East German spy Jorg Meyer. And South Africa Premier Pieter Botha has declared that KGB Maj. Alexei Kozlov was never part of any planned international swap.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.