Wolf, who will remain free on bail pending an appeal, maintained a rather contemptuous detachment as Judge Klaus Wagner read out the verdict. But his supporters in court, who included Hans Modrow, East Germany's last Communist prime minister, cried out 'disgusting' and 'shame', while those in favour of seeing him convicted cheered 'Bravo]'
Yesterday's verdict brought to an end a seven-month trial which has been fraught with controversy from start to finish. But it did not close the case once and for all. Quite apart from the appeal, which is expected to last at least six months, Germany's constitutional court is next year due to rule on the vexed question of whether former East German spies can be put on trial in this way at all. If it rules that they cannot - because effectively they were doing the same as their Western counterparts - the case against Wolf will collapse.
Clearly relieved not to have been put behind bars straight away, Wolf, now 70, condemned the Dusseldorf proceedings as a 'farce'. 'The whole thing was just a smokescreen to disguise the political nature of what was really going on,' he told journalists after the trial had finished. 'It was a clear case of victors' justice.'
Judge Wagner, for his part, explicitly denied that it was a political verdict. 'He (Wolf) has not been convicted as a symbol of the former East Germany but, rather, because of his personal involvement in acts of espionage and crimes against West Germany.'
Most of Judge Wagner's almost three-hour summing-up speech involved a detailed run through some of the most spectacular breakthroughs achieved by the East German espionage service, which was headed by Wolf between 1953 and 1986.
Once again, the court heard of how Gunter Guillaume, following the instructions of his master, managed to secure a position in the office of Chancellor Willy Brandt - a move which, when discovered, precipitated Brandt's resignation. Once again it was told how East German 'Romeo' agents were sent to woo secretaries in Bonn and Brussels, sometimes even going so far as to stage mock marriages to them in order to convert them to the cause.
Once again it heard of the many West German agents recruited by Wolf who were subsequently caught, convicted and jailed. And once again, it was reminded that any information gathered by the East Germans was automatically passed on to the KGB.
'He (Wolf) helped to build an institution that from the very outset aimed to damage West Germany and get hold of state secrets,' said Judge Wagner. 'He did not simply receive information but played an active role in helping to acquire it.'
At that, a faint smile appeared across the face of the man in the dock. From the outset, Wolf has never denied such charges. But, as an East German citizen at the time, far from betraying his country, he was serving it, he claims. As he put it in his last statement to the court last month: 'You have shown nothing except that East Germany really did have an intelligence service . . . and that it was not idle.'
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