Ex-E. German police chief guilty of killings


BERLIN -- The longtime chief of East Germany's secret police, Erich Mielke, was convicted yesterday of the 1931 murders of two police officers and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Several other charges, all connected to his tenure as secret police chief, are still pending against the 85-year-old Mielke, but it is uncertain when or whether he will be brought to trial again.

Mielke headed the East German secret police, known as the Stasi, from 1957 until the collapse of Communist rule in 1989.

He may have been the most hated man in East Germany, a hard-line Stalinist whose 85,000 full-time agents and 110,000 informers collected vast amounts of information that they used to intimidate and punish critics of the government and other Germans.

Berlin prosecutors decided to open their legal assault on Mielke by charging him with the infamous 1931 "Bulowplatz murders," in which two police officers assigned to harass Communists were shot to death outside the Communist Party headquarters in Berlin. At the time of the killings, Mielke was a young party enforcer.

Mielke's lawyers maintained that after the Nazis came to power in 1933, they put pressure on witnesses and falsified documents to portray Mielke as one of the two assailants. He was never prosecuted because he fled to Moscow days after the killings.

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