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Czechoslovak communist leaders face life sentence

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Berlin, Sept 1 (CTK) – Former Czechoslovak communist leaders Milos Jakes, 94, and Lubomir Strougal, 91, sued in Germany for the deaths of five East Germans at the border in the communist era, may even be sentenced to life, but a lower sentence is far more likely, German lawyer Konrad Menz has told CTK.
He said German courts punished some people for their contribution to the Holocaust with prison sentences of only several years, also with respect to their high age.
The Prague office of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience says almost nobody has been punished for the killings of the five Germans who wanted to get over the Iron Curtain.
The Platform filed a criminal complaint against 67 Czech and Slovak citizens, mostly border guards and their commanders, with German Attorney General Peter Frank on August 18.
Menz, from a Berlin law office, cooperates with the Platform.
Menz said the chance that the surviving suspects would be charged is at least 50 percent.
As far as Menz knows, all the German court verdicts concerning killings at the Iron Curtain relate to the border between East Germany and West Germany.
However, the complaint he filed on behalf of the Platform is similar to the cases related to the East German border.
In Germany, these cases are not subject to the statute of limitations and who were involved in the crimes bear responsibility for them, Menz said.
He said the German Attorney General was now studying the complaint that consists of hundreds of pages of documents.
It is hard to say how long the initial assessment of the documents would take, Menz said.
If the suspects are charged, they would have to be extradited to Germany, he said.
Menz said Jakes, former Czech premier Strougal and former Slovak premier Peter Colotka, 91, might be compared to Egon Krenz, 79, who was punished in Germany as the last East German communist leader.
In the 1990s, Krenz was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for his responsibility for the border rules that claimed many victims. He was released from prison after serving nearly four years.
The criminal complaint prepared by the Platform concerns the deaths of the following German men: Hartmut Tautz, Richard Schlenz, Gerhard Schmidt, Kurt Hoffmeister and Johann Dick.
Tautz was mauled to death by two dogs of the Czechoslovak border guards near Bratislava 30 years ago. Schlenz succeeded in swimming across the Danube near Bratislava in 1967, but Czech border guards shot him dead when he got out of the river on the Austrian side.
Schmidt was killed in western Bohemia when he tried to flee to Bavaria with his wife and three children. Hoffmeister was shot dead in southwest Bohemia by a border guard. Dick was shot in the West German territory by Czech border guards who dragged him to Czechoslovakia where he died.

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