Honecker to face charges 'soon'

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The Independent Online
BERLIN - Chancellor Helmut Kohl expressed confidence yesterday that Erich Honecker, the last East German refugee seeking sanctuary in a foreign embassy, was on the brink of being brought back to the country to face trial in connection with the 'shoot-to- kill' policy at the Berlin Wall and the old inner-German border, reports Adrian Bridge.

It now appears very likely that, rather than celebrating his 80th birthday next month in the Chilean embassy in Moscow, Mr Honecker will be behind bars in Berlin's Moabit prison.

Mr Kohl said that after months of squabbling between Bonn, Moscow and Santiago, there was now 'perceptible movement' and that Mr Honecker would be returned 'soon'. Earlier, a senior German Foreign Ministry spokesman said 'a solution is now in sight', but he declined to confirm speculation that the former Communist leader could be back as soon as the weekend.

'We will put him in detention as soon as he lands in the city,' said Uta Folster, the spokeswoman for Berlin's justice authority, which has brought charges against Mr Honecker regarding 50 killings and 25 attempted killings along the former border.

Ever since Mr Honecker's flight to Moscow in March last year and his subsequent retreat to the Chilean embassy in December, he has proved a constant thorn in the side of relations between Bonn and both Moscow and Santiago.