Hüseyin Yildirim-Life sentance vacated with a treaty transfer

Hüseyin Yildirim-Life sentance vacated with a treaty transfer

Life Sentence

Hüseyin Yildirim

Hüseyin Yildirim

Hüseyin Yildirim (born March 10, 1928) is a Turkish-American auto mechanic who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States for his courier role in the espionage activities of U.S. serviceman James Hall III during the Cold War era (1981 to 1989).

On July 20, 1989, after a two-day, seven-hour trial, the federal jury found Yildirim guilty of his role as a courier for the convicted spy James Hall III. Hüseyin Yildirim was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole(1)

Frederick Kramer of Savannah, Georgia, the U.S. assistant attorney who prosecuted Yildirim, sees his old foe as “a manipulative, lying mercenary who creates a simple-minded persona to conceal his absolute cunning”.

B. Avant Edenfield, the federal judge who sentenced the spy to life without possibility of parole, writes that “Yildirim is loathsome, should never be freed and is fortunate not to have forfeited his life for a sordid and treacherous business."

A retired counter-intelligence investigator, who requested anonymity, was no less inflexible: "The Meister (Yildirim's code name) was not small fry. He was one of the most effective, damaging, dangerous spies in the history of the Cold War." (2)

On December 29, 2003, Hüseyin Yildirim BOP Register Number 09542-018 (3) was secretly extradited from the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex to Turkey within the scope of a bilateral treaty on prisoner exchange between Turkey and the United States. (4)


Aging Spy Sees No End to His Imprisonment

An aging Cold War spy, who says he has been punished enough.

December 31, 1997|PAUL DEAN

Does this old spy they called the Meister have more traitors and moles up his sleeve? Or were his confessions genuine, and this dumpy, former East German agent knows no more than he has admitted of secrets stolen and sold during his decade plumbing U.S. military sources in Berlin?

Huseyin Yildirim, as he did in an interview with Life & Style in March, still insists he is empty of information. At 70 and fading, after eight years as prisoner of a Cold War that no longer exists, Yildirim says it is time he went home to Turkey, where he was born, and Germany where his children live.

And Jamie Nichols, the Santa Barbara attorney who has represented Yildirim on a pro bono basis for three years, still says the federal government is being unyielding, punitive and mean-spirited in not releasing his client from Lompoc Federal Penitentiary.

President Clinton and Atty. Gen. Janet Reno have not responded to Nichols' letters. He has petitioned U.S. Pardon Atty. Margaret Colgate Love. One letter of acknowledgment, but nothing else.

Nichols contacted James Hall, the Army intelligence officer who was turned by Yildirim, arrested with him and sentenced by a military court to 40 years in prison.

"Hall totally ignored me," says Nichols.

Nichols has visited Berlin and interviewed ex-spymasters of the disbanded East German intelligence service. They testified that Yildirim was small potatoes, and Hall the real traitor. And Nichols says he has asked Kate Alleman--an FBI agent who stays in contact with Yildirim--for a reason for holding the spy.

"They [the FBI] think it is not inappropriate for him to rot in prison," says Nichols. "They say his work might not have caused physical harm to Americans, but he hurt a lot of Americans by contacting them, so that they lost security clearances and ruined their careers.

"I told her: 'But that was his job, and we did the same damned thing.' "

If a pardon is not granted, says Nichols, he may seek a new trial based on a 1,000-page transcript indicating Yildirim did not receive an adequate defense.

"He's not doing too well," Nichols reports. "He is getting to very deep stages of depression, because every piece of information we get is negative. He feels there is no more hope. So I'm trying to prepare him for the possibility that he might die in a U.S. prison."


The Waiting Game

As he sits in prison--sentenced to life--Huseyin Yildirim contends he's being unfairly punished for his role in a Cold War long over. But federal agents say he's a top spy who's still keeping secrets.


LOMPOC — He is behind bars and barbed wire for what is left of his life; this round, soft, sly, sometimes funny, mostly sad, always hopeful little grandfather.

This master spy they call the Meister.
This human relic of the Cold War.

This East German intelligence agent who stole America's military secrets for eight years and caused, in the still angry opinion of one American pursuer, more damage than any spy in the history of East-West tensions.

Eight years ago, with Europe divided and the Berlin Wall a firm symbol of conflicting ideologies, honor among spies was clear. U-2 pilot Gary Powers served only two years in a Soviet prison. Defectors were treated as new allies. The common scenario was pure LeCarre: one of ours, one of theirs, traded at dawn at some foggy border bridge where nobody smiled.

But those adventures are done. East Germany has been dismantled, and there's no government to negotiate for forgotten spies. Which leaves Huseyin Yildirim alone, begging for a hearing.

"I am wanting, desperately, freedom," he says.

He is 69 and has been in federal prisons, in Tennessee and California, for eight years. He tried to escape in Memphis--caught after the bolt cutters he built failed--so in 1992 he was sent here, a maximum-security penitentiary that replaced Alcatraz and is called the New Rock.

He wants again to visit Turkey where he was born, to live in the Germany that he adopted, to spend a few final years with his children and their children.

"I was spy, yes," Yildirim admits. "But that time was war, and eight years more than enough for prisoners of war."

Now he has an attorney sending pro bono appeals for commutation to anyone in Washington who will listen. This salvo of letters, e-mail and faxes pounds the human rights facets of Yildirim's case, his perception of a railroading in federal court, and the suggested inhumane confinement of an old man disintegrated into a Cold War museum piece.

"I am heavily punished," he insists, in English that has barely survived decades of his battering. "I want to forget all past. I would like to apologize to the American people."

But we, those American people and our system, say no.

For although America plays espionage games--even honoring those who work the shadows for our intelligence services--there is little forgiveness for those who trespass against us.

Especially, say his federal minders, a master spy such as Yildirim--a decorated intelligence craftsman who may still be protecting the names and activities of several suspected but unprosecuted American soldiers he turned into traitors.

So firm is that belief, agents of the FBI and the National Security Agency continue to visit and remain accessible to Yildirim. They write him letters. They send him Christmas and Easter cards.

He has confirmed some suspects, say sources, but the government believes he knows more. There is no statute of limitations for espionage, so the waiting game is endless. Said one agent: "It would be fair to assume [federal agencies] are not [visiting] because Yildirim reminds them of their kindly old uncle."

Gentle, harmless, genuinely remorseful man?

Or best actor?

Frederick Kramer of Savannah, Ga., the U.S. assistant attorney who prosecuted Yildirim, sees his old foe as a manipulative, lying mercenary who creates a simple-minded persona to conceal his absolute cunning.

B. Avant Edenfield, the federal judge who sentenced the spy to life without possibility of parole, writes that Yildirim is loathsome, should never be freed and is fortunate not to have forfeited his life for "a sordid and treacherous business."

A retired investigator, who requested anonymity, was no less inflexible: "The Meister was not small fry. He was one of the most effective, damaging, dangerous spies in the history of the Cold War."

The Meister. The Master.

First, it was a legitimate credential Yildirim earned in the '70s after Mercedes-Benz's scholarships put him through automotive engineering school in West Germany.

"Meister" evolved into a code name when he volunteered to spy for East Germany's intelligence service, the Hauptverwaltung Alufklarung (HVA), part of the Ministry of State Security--Stasi.

His spymasters, admits Yildirim, still with a flicker of pride, were Gen. Harry Schutt--often identified as Communism's most successful espionage chief--and the infamous Markus Wolf, HVA head.

Yildirim says his motive was money, lots of it, never communistic idealism or the rush of spying. And he was as polished at the craft as he was at rebuilding cars.

"I don't care about the [spy] games at all," he says. Dressed in penitentiary tan, shirt and slacks, he has brought to the interview wedding photographs of his children, snapshots of his grandchildren, old clippings of fellow spies captured or released. "East German spies. French spies. Everybody spying on each other. A very complicated city, Berlin, at that time. This was the Casablanca of the Cold War.


Turkish national sentenced to life for spying against U.S.

By DE'ANN WEIMER   |   Sept. 20, 1989

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A federal judge sentenced convicted spy Huseyin Yildirim to life in prison Wednesday for turning over U.S. military secrets to agents for Eastern Bloc governments.

Yildirim, 61, a Turkish national, was convicted July 21 on charges of conspiring to commit espionage against the United States and of acting as a courier for convicted spy and former Army Warrant Officer James William Hall III.

Yildirim, who did not testify at his trial, told U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield that he was innocent and was in fact a double agent for the United States.

'I am not a spy. I am just dropped in a trap,' Yildirim said. 'I am not guilty. I know I work for America, but today nobody believes me.'

Yildirim told the court he turned over the documents stolen by Hall at bases in West Germany and the United States to U.S. intelligence officers. He also insisted he provided the U.S. military with information on a bomb that went off at a disco in West Germany.

Federal prosecutor Fred Kramer dismissed Yildirim's claims.

'This story is patently ridiculous,' Kramer said. 'It's the standard drivel you expect in an espionage case, the old double agent story.'

Defense Attorney Lamar Walter asked Edenfield not to give Yildirim a harsher sentence than the 40 years metted out to Hall, saying the punishment for the courier should not be stiffer than the traitor's sentence.

'I didn't sentence Hall,' said Edenfield. 'The only proper sentence for Hall would have been death and a firing squad. Hall did not get justice and was the greater traitor, but someone else (Army Col. Howard E. Eggers) did that. If you (Yildirim) get out, you will be on supervised probation for five years and banished from the U.S., never to return.'

Yildirim was arrested last Dec. 21 at his Belleair Beach, Fla., home. He was implicated in Hall's espionage activities in a secretly videotaped meeting Dec. 20 in a Savannah hotel room between Hall and an FBI agent posing as a Soviet diplomat.

During that meeting, Hall identified Yildirim as his courier with East German agents and described how he passed classified documents to Yildirim who turned them over to the foreign agents in exchange for cash.

Hall was then assigned to Fort Stewart as an intelligence specialist.