Germany enthralled by gay spy trial

Posted at 11/18/2009 7:49 PM

MUNICH - A trial opened in Germany on Wednesday with all the elements of a 21st century spy thriller: criminal networks in the Balkans, leaking of state secrets and careless pillow-talk to a gay lover.

Officially, the details are sketchy, but according to media reports the tale began when former soldier Anton K., was posted to Kosovo in 2005, ostensibly to work for the foreign ministry but in reality to set up a network of informants.

In doing so, he recruited a Macedonian man who said he grew up in Germany, Murat A., now 29, to be an interpreter and translator, an appointment approved by Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) headquarters after background checks.

The working relationship continued for two years, and in 2007 K.'s job was extended for two years, but he failed to mention to his superiors the nature of their personal relationship: they had became lovers and had moved in together.

The BND then alerted prosecutors, and the two were arrested after being summoned back to Germany on false pretences, with K. handcuffed and bundled into an unmarked car by plain-clothes police at a suburban train station.

According to a statement from federal prosecutors in August, the 42-year-old K. divulged classified information to his interpreter.

Spiegel magazine reported that this included information obtained by British agents, and that K. revealed it "in the bedroom" or by allowing his lover access to his laptop computer.

The latter "then intended to pass this information on either to people in the area of organised crime in Macedonia or to foreign intelligence agencies," federal prosecutors said.

For the defence, however, the two men are victims of a homophobic witch-hunt within the BND, which since the affair broke has reportedly been forced to sever contacts with at least 19 information sources in the Balkans.

"There is no evidence to suggest that my client passed on information," the interpreter's lawyer Christian Stuenkel was quoted as saying in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.