BERLIN, January 15 (RIA Novosti) - A German court on Tuesday started the trial of a German-based couple accused of spying for Russia on NATO and the European Union, German media reported.
The trial of Andreas Anschlag, 54, and his wife Heidrun, 48, opened up in the city of Stuttgart, with federal prosecutors accusing them of “secret agent activity” and “forgery of documents,” Deutsche Welle (DW) reported.
The couple were arrested in different places in Germany in October 2011. In September 2012, they were charged with spying for a foreign intelligence service.
Prosecutors say the Anschlags have been spying in Germany for over 20 years - first at the request of the Soviet Union and later for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.
The couple’s defense lawyer, Horst-Dieter Poetschke, told DW that the suspects’ true surname might be different. He also gave evasive answers to questions about the accusations.
The pair had sold off their belongings and were apparently preparing to flee, German media said at the time. Heidrun was reportedly communicating with her superiors in Moscow via a shortwave radio receiver at the very moment police raided her house, prompting her to fall out of her chair.
The couple arrived in Germany between 1988 and 1990, both sporting Eastern European accents and claiming to having been born in South America and grown up in Austria. They were recruiting, schooling and managing other agents who worked in Germany and neighboring countries, the Berlin newspaper Die Welt reported earlier, adding that they were also passing sensitive information to Moscow on EU and NATO plans collected by agents.
The couple’s most high-profile recruit to be publicly identified was Dutch diplomat Raymond Poeteray, who was detained in April 2012. Poeteray, who denied the accusations, allegedly received 90,000 euro ($115,000) for passing confidential information to Russia.
Prosecutors say the files were delivered via dead letter drops to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service in Moscow, after which the couple apparently received further commands through an agent radio network.
On the first day of the trial, the couple kept silent, a court spokesman told RIA Novosti. The trial will continue on Thursday, he said.
Defense lawyer Poetschke earlier said the couple will exercise their right to remain silent during the trial. He also told Die Welt that they still hope an exchange will be possible.
The German government earlier made an appeal to Russia to exchange the Anschlags for agents who had been working for a news outlet with close ties to Germany. The deal was never struck but it has been speculated the couple might still be exchanged.
Updated with information on first day of trial, its continuation.
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