Closed-door trial of Soviet/Russian sleeper agents starts in Germany

The Anschlags' house in Meckenheim
A married couple accused of spying on Germany on behalf of the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades has gone on trial in Stuttgart. Andreas Anschlag, 54, and his wife, Heidrun, 48, were arrested in October 2011 by GSG-9, the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police. They were later charged with having spied since at least 1990 for the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate and its post-Soviet successor organization, the SVR. German federal prosecutors also accuse the couple of document forgery, since their Austrian passports, which they used to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 (Andreas) and 1990 (Heidrun) are believed to be counterfeit. There is also speculation that the couple’s surname may in fact be an alias given to them by their intelligence handlers. Upon entering West Germany in 1988 and 1990, the Anschlags initially settled in Aachen, on the German-Belgian border, before moving to Meckenheim, a small town with a population of less than 30,000 located a few miles southwest of Bonn. They concentrated on blending into German society, while raising their son daughter and leading what their neighbors describe as a “discreet life”. Over the years, they managed to recruit a number of informants, including a Dutch diplomat identified by authorities in Holland only as ‘Raymond P’. The diplomat, who was arrested last June, is believed to have given the Anschlags nearly 500 classified documents originating from the German armed forces, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. As intelNews reported in 2011, the alleged spies were also found to be in contact with their Russian handlers via a clandestine radio receiver, as well as through an Internet video service and a satellite telephone. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel wrote on Tuesday that there are rumors in Berlin that Germany has been engaged in negotiations with Moscow to exchange the couple with several Western agents currently in Russian prisons. The Kremlin is said to have rejected a German offer in 2012, though some speculate that a spy-swap deal between the two countries may now be close. Germany’s state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle said it contacted the Russian Embassy in Berlin and the headquarters of the SVR in Moscow about the case, but received no responses. Meanwhile, the trial of the Anschlags continues in Stuttgart behind closed doors.

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