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E. Germany Frees Protesters but Balks at Reform Talks - Europe: Party leader Erich Honecker offers little hope to opposition forces even as his hard-line regime makes a few concessions.

October 14, 1989|WILLIAM TUOHY | WILLIAM TUOHY, TIMES STAFF WRITER

BONN — The East German government announced Friday that it has released nearly all the protesters arrested during the week for taking part in demonstrations calling for political and economic reform.

However, Communist Party leader Erich Honecker said there will be no talks with the East German opposition. "We don't need suggestions for the improvement of socialism that are really intended to cause its demise," Honecker said after meeting with leaders of four political parties allied with the Communists, according to the Associated Press.

It appeared to be the East German leader's toughest comment yet on opposition movements.

Also on Friday, East Berlin agreed to give emigration papers to more than 800 refugees sheltered in Bonn's embassy in Warsaw, scene of the last major occupation by disgruntled East Germans eager to go to the West.

West German government spokesman Hans Klein said East Germany will give them papers enabling them to go to the country of their choice. They are expected to leave Poland in the near future, but no date was given.

Friday's announcement followed several days of talks between Warsaw, East Berlin and Bonn.

In a statement about the release of protesters, East Germany's state prosecutor's said 11 people are still in custody and will be tried on various charges in connection with the demonstrations, including arson, looting, assault and incitement.

The statement, distributed by the East German news agency ADN, did not say how many people were arrested, or in what cities people were set free.

According to spokesmen for the protest groups, hundreds of people were arrested--and many of them beaten--in East Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and several smaller cities.

The prosecutor's announcement followed an appeal by Wolfgang Vogel, a lawyer and unofficial senior adviser to Erich Honecker.

"There can be no delay in their release," Vogel said in a prepared statement. "For them, their relatives and society, every hour counts."

Vogel's call for freeing the detained demonstrators is considered significant because he has carried out dozens of secret and sensitive missions for Honecker and the Politburo.

The arrests took place over a week of mass demonstrations organized in connection with the 40th anniversary of the founding of East Germany--the largest such demonstrations since the workers' uprising of 1953, which brought in Soviet tanks.

In his meeting with four parties allied with the Communists, Honecker discussed the growing demand for political and economic reform.

The heads of the four parties--the Democratic Farmers, Liberal Democrats, Christian Democrats and National Democrats--have joined to one degree or another in the widespread clamor for change in the tightly run society.

Meanwhile, it was announced that West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl will visit Poland Nov. 9.

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