Mauss at Full Gallop - La Semana
Largest circulation political weekly in Colombia
This article is based upon the information that was available at the time of going to press.
On the 20th of May 1998, in Colombia, Herr and Frau Mauss were acquitted of all charges against them.
After an 18-month investigation by the Fiscal General de la Nación and the Procurador General – public prosecutor for, amongst other things, state and authority criminality, it was ruled that the couple had, at no time during their operations or stays in the country since 1984, violated any Colombian national laws.
It was further ruled that the imprisonment and nine-month pre-trial detention that began in November of 1996 had been illegal. It was established that this had been based upon the intrigues of the company Control Risks with the cooperation of the Columbian police authority – Gaula Medellin – which had manipulated prisoners, forcing them into making false statements against the couple. This falsified evidence was later rectified and declared illegal. Extract from acquittal judgement. [Link]
Between 1995 and their arrest in 1996, the couple were involved in a peace mission which was carried out in consultation with the German Chancellor’s Office.
The Federal Government confirmed this in a governmental declaration at the beginning of 1997 which was presented, along with a verbal note (Nota No.:022/97) via the German ambassador in Bogotá, to the Colombian government, the Fiscal General de la Nación and the General State Prosecutor of Antioquia, on the 23rd of January 1997.
See also letter, dated May 22 2001, to a Western government, written by the then Minister of State in the Chancellor’s Office and coordinator of the German intelligence services, Herr Bernd Schmidbauer, MdB [Link]
as well as
the letter of appreciation, dated November 22 2005, sent to Werner Mauss by former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who was in office at the time in question. [Link]
Investigations carried out by LA SEMANA have shown that there was more to the Mauss case than the country realised: a peace process between the ELN and the government of Ernesto Samper, which was at an advanced stage.
It was the summer of 1995. German super agent Werner Mauss was busy with last-minute preparations for a mission to Asia, his job to help bring about the arrest of a group of international terrorists who had been actively involved in terror activities throughout Europe. A telephone call on his private line interrupted the preparations of the man with the thousand faces and identities.
On the line was Chancellery Minister and intelligence services coordinator, Bernd Schmidbauer. The Minister’s orders were clear: Mauss was to return to Bonn immediately. His old friend had an ultra-secret mission to assign him to. This time it had nothing to do with terrorists or gangs involved in organised crime, nor with the sort of murderous psychopaths who spend their lives planning assassination attempts on presidents and chancellors.
The work this time was of a different nature and would take him to another country. It was a country that Schmidbauer knew like the back of his hand having travelled through it years before on a motorbike – Colombia. Mauss’s job was to set up a number of contacts with the leadership of the ELN national liberation army and to find out if the guerrilla group was prepared to negotiate with the government of Ernesto Samper. As soon as he had completed his mission, Mauss was to return to Germany and give a full report to Minister Schmidbauer; this was then to be passed on to Chancellor Kohl for appraisal.
The job would not be easy, but both Schmidbauer and Mauss were of the opinion that it was something that had to be done. At the beginning of November 1995 therefore, the German agent and his wife lsabel Seidel flew from Frankfurt to Bogotá. At "El Dorado" airport in Bogotá two men were awaiting the couple, their job to set up the contact to the ELN leadership. Also at the airport was a team from “Der Spiegel” magazine under the direction of Hans Leyendecker. They had been invited by Mauss to make a documentary film on the meeting with the guerrillas. A condition of the invitation was the exclusiveness of the material, which was only to be made use of with Mauss’s permission. Should they choose to use the material without his permission, the cost could run into millions. A written agreement was made in order to avoid misunderstandings. The publication of any photographs of Mauss with the ELN was also contractually forbidden.
The jungle adventure, to seek the ELN camp, began the very same day. On the 8th of November came the first meeting with two of the ELN’s top commanders, Antonio García and Nicolás Bautista. Talks went on for four days and nights while the pros and cons of the German government’s proposals were discussed. The possibility of entering into peace talks with the Samper government was discussed in detail and whether or not it would be possible to get together around the table.
At this time, two Italian hostages were being held in the camp where the meeting was taking place. The Germans asked García and Bautista to release them as a sign of their good will and as a way of getting the peace negotiations off to a positive start. The guerrilleros agreed to the proposal, but in return, Mauss and his wife were to carry a message back to their government. There were two parts to the message. Firstly, that arrangements be made for the journey of a group of ELN leaders to Germany, where a meeting should be arranged with other European Community representatives to work out the conditions for a possible peace process. Secondly, that medical resources should be made available for the treatment of guerrilleros injured in the fighting. Four days were given for an answer.
This signalled the beginning of a marathon journey for Mauss and his wife. In three days they flew to Bonn, to a meeting with Schmidbauer and were back in Colombia in the early morning of the 17th of November. By the end of that day, close to midnight, they were back in the ELN camp. The answers and supplies they carried with them brought freedom for the Italians. Herr and Frau Mauss took the freed hostages by chartered plane to Bogotá and then to a luxury hotel in the north of the city where the Italian ambassador was awaiting their arrival.
For Mauss and his wife, the most important part of the job they had been entrusted with by the government weeks earlier was completed. They had very quickly succeeded in winning the trust of the ELN. At the end of November they returned to Bonn with the final report for Minister Schmidbauer.
At the beginning of January 1996, Schmidbauer gave Mauss the go-ahead to return to Colombia with a team of helpers to organise the guerrilleros journey to the German capital. Garcia, Bautista and 18 other guerrilleros were flown out of Colombia. Nothing was left to chance. The guerrilleros were divided up into four groups, their travel staggered over several days. All of them had to go through “make-up” as it was necessary to change their appearances. The countries of the European Community, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain issued them with special documents to give them freedom of movement. A special commission from the Konrad Adenauer and Seidel Foundations formed the reception committee.
An interdisciplinary team made up of psychologists, political scientists and violence researchers held a number of seminars with the guerrilla group. They then prepared a report containing their impressions and recommendations for the Chancellor’s Office. Some months later the committee submitted a 2000-page document to the Chancellor’s Office in Bonn. Whilst this work was in preparation García and Bautista were holding meetings with leading politicians and representatives of human rights organisations. One such meeting was with Schmidbauer and several members of the German Bundestag. There was time, too, for tourist activities. On a series of trips, organised by Mauss, they went to view the remains of the Berlin Wall, took a gondola ride through Venice and visited some countries of the former Soviet Union.
One of the most significant visits was to the Vatican, where the peace plan received a blessing. The Church was also to become more fully involved. Bishop Karl Lehmann, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, was selected as the Church’s representative and began to work closely with the Chancellor’s Office. The 20 ELN guerrillas spent a total of seven months in Europe. The German government guaranteed for the security of the guerrillas during their stay.
PLANS FALL THROUGH
Schmidbauer and his colleagues were in no doubt that everything had gone smoothly. So, at the beginning of April 1996, Herr and Frau Mauss were informed that another official trip to Colombia was in the offing. This time they were to hold a series of talks with members of the Samper government and to inform them of the ELN’s willingness for peace. On the Colombian side for these talks were the Interior Minister at that time, Horacio Serpa, and Carlos Villamil Chaux to whom Samper had given the job of coordinating the talks with the Germans.
The talks between the two governments continued in Bonn on the 15th of June 1996 at an official meeting between Horacio Serpa and Minister Schmidbauer. They spent several hours discussing the various standpoints and decided that the possibility of reaching an agreement between the opposing parties was something worth pursuing. The agreement was committed to paper in New York on the 21st September. Schmidbauer and Samper used the UNO conference as the setting for the signing of the agreement. Present as witnesses were Carlos Vilamil Chaux and Herr and Frau Mauss. Samper authorised the peace plan under the patronage of the Churches of both countries and Schmidbauer offered his services as a mediator.
But, as is well enough known, something happened that would leave plans in tatters and destroy hopes for the drawing up of a schedule for the continuation of negotiations, planned for the December 16, 1996. A German named Brigitte Schoene was kidnapped in Antioquia. Her captors demanded millions in ransom and according to the Gaula (Colombian special forces) Frau Schoene was in the hands of the ELN.
At that time some ELN members were still in Europe finalising plans for the peace negotiations which were due to begin in December. Brigitte Schoene’s husband got in touch with the German embassy in Colombia to ask for help. After the German government had been informed about the situation it was decided that Mauss should take on the job of finding a solution to a problem that had halted the peace process, a process predicated upon the condition that no German be kidnapped.
During the talks between Samper and Schmidbauer in New York, Mauss received a phone call from Shoene’s husband. He had two questions for the ELN members who were still in Germany. Crucial questions that would let him know whether his wife was still alive or not. Mauss sent the questions to the Chancellor’s Office and then to the guerrilleros in Germany.
There then began a round of telephoning in order to try to ascertain where Brigitte Schoene was. Four days later, the ELN reported to the Chancellor’s Office that Frau Schoene had been kidnapped by ordinary criminals and that – through contacts to the kidnappers – they had established that the hostage was still alive.
One week later – in October 1996 – Mauss received a message from the ELN: the problem of Frau Schoene had been solved; he could come to Colombia to get her. At this time, a company named Control Risk, which specialised in selling insurance against kidnapping, called the Chancellor’s Office in Bonn to claim that they were legally responsible for the case of Frau Schoene and for various other kidnap insurances in Colombia. They officially requested the withdrawal of Mauss in order to avoid problems.
Schmidbauer decided to recall Herr and Frau Mauss. He wanted to avoid further complications for a peace process that had already begun to falter. On November 1st, however, Mauss received a phone call from Schmidbauer and the chairman of BASF requesting him to resume his efforts to free Frau Schoene.
That same afternoon, Mauss and his wife flew to Bonn for a meeting with ELN members. The meeting took place in a pizzeria. Herr and Frau Mauss explained to the ELN that the release of the German hostage was urgent if the peace process was not to collapse completely. The ELN men claimed that they were not in position to help. They no longer had any contact with the Colombian kidnappers. However, a door was left open. If a senior member of the German government were prepared to make a request for their help, they would try to do something.
A few days later, an appeal for the help of the ELN in bringing about the release of Frau Schoene was issued by the Chancellor’s Office in Bonn. On the 14th of November, the German Embassy in Colombia provided the couple with a letter of introduction in which the Colombian authorities were requested to assist them in their official operation in Colombia. In the interests of their added security, however, they were also issued with several passports giving them alternative identities.
The rest is well known. Mauss and his wife were arrested at the airport in Medellin on November 16, charged with kidnapping and extortion and carrying falsified documents. Werner Mauss was taken to the Itagui maximum-security prison, while his wife went to a cell in “Buen Pastor” prison. The peace process with the ELN was at a standstill. A meeting with Interior Minister Horacio Serpa in Bogotá, planned for two days after the freeing of Frau Schoene did not take place. The meeting had been planned for the purpose of fixing a date for peace table negotiations in Bonn between Samper’s government and the ELN, along with representatives of the German and Colombian Churches and with the German government as observers and mediators.
One year and three months later, Mauss and his wife are still in Colombia. They are still awaiting a decision from the public prosecutor’s office on their legal position. The prosecutor’s office acting for the Tribunal Nacional has declared the indictment invalid.
But Mauss and his wife are not only waiting for clarification of their legal situation. They are also waiting for a possible new beginning to the peace process. At the beginning of this year, the vice-president of the German Bundestag made it known that the Chancellery was still interested in mediating in the peace process that had been begun two years earlier with the ELN.
(Translated from German)