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E. Germans Open Murder Probe Against Honecker

From Associated Press

East Germany’s top prosecutor has opened a murder probe against former Communist leader Erich Honecker stemming from the border shooting deaths of people who tried to flee the country, the nation’s news agency said today.

Honecker is believed to be the first hard-line Communist leader ousted in the pro-democracy revolutions that swept Eastern Europe to be targeted in a murder investigation. Romania’s former leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, was executed Christmas Day after a quickly arranged trial on genocide charges.

Honecker could receive a life prison term if he is formally charged and convicted of murder charges.

Acting chief prosecutor Guenter Seidel is also investigating soldiers suspected of having killed would-be escapees, according to the news agency ADN.

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More than 200 East Germans were shot to death or killed by land mines as they tried to escape from East Germany and East Berlin under more than 40 years of Communist rule.

Bringing those responsible to justice has been one of the most bitterly debated issues in East Germany today.

The 77-year-old Honecker, whose hard-line regime was toppled in a peaceful revolution in October, already is the target of other criminal probes, including a West German one for allegedly harboring West German terrorists.

Honecker has been in ill health since being ousted.

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