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Honecker Released From Monthlong House Arrest

January 05, 1990|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BONN — Erich Honecker, the deposed Communist leader of East Germany, has been released from house arrest, the chief of the national criminal police reported Thursday. Honecker, 77 and ailing, had been confined to his home since Dec. 5 while the new government investigated charges against him of corruption and abuse of power.

Helmut Nettweg, chief of the criminal police, said Thursday that the decision to place Honecker under house arrest "had no legal basis." He said he does not know whether Honecker, who was ousted Oct. 18, is still the subject of an investigation.

Meanwhile, Uwe Hempel, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told reporters that the period of compulsory military service will be reduced from 18 months to 12. Also, he said, military personnel will now be permitted to travel to the West like other East German citizens.

In time, Hempel said, the reduction in military service will mean a sharp decline in the armed forces' strength, by 25,000 to 30,000. The East German military's present strength is estimated at 120,000 servicemen and women.

The Defense Ministry announcement came after reports that soldiers were striking for better conditions and complaining that they could be better employed in industry.

Also Thursday, six East German opposition groups agreed to form an alliance in preparation for national elections scheduled for May.

The official East German news agency ADN quoted Steffen Reiche, a leader of the Social Democratic Party, as saying that his party will enter into a coalition with New Forum, the largest of the pro-democracy forces, along with Democracy Now, Democratic Awakening, the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, and the United Left.

The new coalition will be known as Election Alliance 90. The news agency said the coalition has no intention of becoming a party and that it will campaign as an "interest group."

As the result of Honecker's being released from house arrest, he will be forced to move from his luxurious home in the compound at Wandlitz, which under the old regime was reserved for members of the Politburo. The new leadership plans to turn the place into a sanitarium for the handicapped.

Wolfgang Meyer, a government spokesman, told reporters that Honecker "has been offered an apartment in Berlin."

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