Germany jails Vietnamese man who aided Cold War-style abduction

A German court on Wednesday sentenced a Vietnamese man to nearly four years in jail for taking part in a brazen Cold War-style kidnapping ordered by Hanoi of an oil executive from a Berlin park.

Germany jails Vietnamese man who aided Cold War-style abduction
Long N.H. standing trial in April in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Judges at the Berlin court said the 47-year-old Czech-Vietnamese national, identified as Long N.H., was guilty of aiding an abduction and working for a foreign intelligence service.

But they handed him a relatively mild sentence of three years and ten months after he confessed to his involvement.

“The accused knew of the plans of the Vietnamese secret service, but did not belong to the top level of command,” judges said in their verdict, according to DPA.

Long N.H. admitted during his trial that he rented the vehicle used in last July's abduction of fugitive Vietnamese state company official Trinh Xuan Thanh, who was spirited back to Hanoi.

Thanh – also a Communist party functionary who was seeking political
asylum in Germany – has since been sentenced to two life terms in Vietnam on corruption charges.

The 52-year-old and his companion were walking in Berlin's Tiergarten park when they were dragged into a van in broad daylight and smuggled back to Vietnam.

The German government was outraged, calling it a “scandalous violation” of its sovereignty.

Communist-ruled Vietnam has always insisted that Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction, returned voluntarily to face embezzlement charges.

Thanh's German lawyer, Petra Schlagenhauf, has described the kidnapping as
“like a story from the Cold War”.

Mystery route

Long N.H., was once among thousands of so-called guest workers in communist East Germany. He was later denied asylum and resettled in Prague.

He was arrested there last August and extradited to Germany days later.

He admitted renting the van used in the abduction in Prague and driving it to Berlin, but he was not at the wheel during the kidnapping. He then drove the van back to Prague.

It remains unclear exactly how Thanh was transported back to his home country, but investigators believe he was driven to the Slovakian capital Bratislava and then flown to Hanoi.

German media have reported that a Slovakian government plane lent to a visiting Vietnamese delegation at the time was involved in the transfer.

Slovakia has said it noticed nothing suspicious about the delegation or their flights, but warned Hanoi of harsh consequences if the allegations proved true.

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German man left disabled by 1982 border shooting offered compensation

The Czech Republic has compensated a man for wounds suffered during his 1982 attempt to cross the Iron Curtain, a spokesman has said. But the former East German citizen reportedly said the amount was "not satisfactory".

German man left disabled by 1982 border shooting offered compensation
A weathered GDR border post on the site of the border monument in Hötensleben, Saxony Anhalt, on the former east German border. Photo: DPA

Siegfried Fröbel was 27 when he and a married couple tried to reach West Germany via Czechoslovakia on April 29th, 1982.

The couple gave themselves up to Czech border troops who opened fire, while Fröbel was hit in the thigh after he had reached German soil.

SEE ALSO: 'How I escaped from East Berlin'

Hauled back to Czech territory, he suffered a brutal interrogation before doctors tended to his wounds.

Fröbel was then expelled to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or former East Germany, where he spent two years in prison before he was finally allowed to settle in West Germany.

“The justice ministry has compensated former GDR citizen Siegfried Fröbel for wounds suffered during an attempt to cross the border” with former West Germany, ministry spokesman Vladimir Repka told AFP.

The GDR like the former Czechoslovakia was a communist state when Fröbel, now 63, made his failed attempt.

SEE ALSO: Honeckers: The most powerful family in East Germany. What happened to them?

Fröbel first filed a complaint in 1990 after countries in Eastern Europe broke away from the Soviet Union, and he now rejects the figure offered by Prague of 125,825 koruna (€4,875), the same sum mooted 28 years ago.

Repka confirmed Czech press reports that it was the first time since the country's “Velvet Revolution” in 1989 that someone has been compensated for such an event.

“It is a unique case that our ministry has been examining for the past few years,” he told AFP.

His wounds left Fröbel disabled and he told the Dnes newspaper that “the amount of compensation is not satisfactory. It is pretty low given my long-term disability, psychological suffering and decline in my standard of living.”

Czech spokesman Repka told AFP: “There is no judicial basis for re-evaluating the amount.”

According to Czech statistics, around 300 people were killed and hundreds of others wounded on Czechoslovakia's borders between 1948 and 1989. The country split in 1992 to become the Czech Republic and Slovakia.