As promised, two German-speaking readers have graciously translated two of the article Die Welt published today about the 1987 killing of Uwe Barschel in Geneva. I’m going to excerpt passage mainly from the news article, The Dead Man in Room 317, and a short passage from the toxicologist’s essay which bears specifically on the notion that a professional hit team had to have been involved in the killing.
I begin with a description of the hit as seen from Victor Ostovsky’s point of view. He is a disgruntled ex-Mossad agent turned rogue who wrote a tell-all book about his ex-employer. Respected journalist-observers of the agency like Ronen Bergman find Ostrovsky’s work to be equal parts truth and fiction and treat him with a grain of salt. Which doesn’t mean that Ostrovsky doesn’t offer useful and interesting information; just that you must corroborate Ostrovsky with independent analysis. That is why Brandenberger’s expert scientific opinion is worth considering in that regard:
The offer made him angry. “Money is no object,” the mysterious stranger had said, but Barschel didn’t want money. He wanted his reputation back. The politician was incensed. He had approached the man: He would have nothing further to do with him if didn’t deliver evidence that would exculpate Barschel. The stranger had said he just needed to fetch something and had left the hotel room. Now the former Prime Minister was sitting alone in his chair sipping Beaujolais, which the stranger had brought to the room. He was probably thinking: what had gone wrong in recent months. What mistakes he had committed. And that this odd stranger who seemed to know so much and had offered to help him might be able to put his life back together.
About an hour later, the hit team arrived.
There were five of them. When they opened the door to room 317 of the Geneva “Beau Rivage” Hotel, Barschel was already lying on the floor, passed out from sleeping pills which had been mixed into the wine. Professionally the assassins ended the life of the 43-year-old politician: They turned him over, head at the foot of the bed, and put a lubricated rubber tube in his mouth and delivered lethal doses of a combination of different drugs.
Then they stripped him of his trousers, two of them held his legs up while a third inserted a suppository with a strong sedative. It would increase the toxic effect of other substances. When they had put on his pants again and waited a while, they dragged their unconscious victim to the bathtub which had already been filled with ice water and put him in. A few minutes later, after experiencing violent spasms, Uwe Barschel was dead. The five killers did not leave until they had cleaned up the room, erasing any traces. This bore the signature of professionals from the Israeli secret service, the Mossad.
This is how former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky describes the night of November 10th and 11th 1987 in his book “The Other Side of Deception,” which was released in 1994. Ostrovsky says that Barschel was a threat to Israeli agents and this is why he was murdered. He claims to have heard this from other agent colleagues. But did Barschel really die this way?
…Now a scientist is calling for a re-assessment of Ostrovsky’s statements. Hans Brandenberger, a Swiss chemistry professor and former toxicology expert in the Barschel investigation, has determined after years of poring over the case that there are striking parallels between Ostrovsky’s description and the chemical results that he is publishing in the “Welt am Sonntag” today for the first time.
Brandenberger is a specialist in metabolic research: He has studied the breakdown of chemicals in the human body. When the body absorbs substances, they are converted to other substances according to complex rules, split it into parts or incorporated into new molecules. Studying which substances are created, where they appear in the body, and how long the processes take, among other things, permits scientists to make inferences about the timing and types of medication.
Brandenberger had already come to the conclusion in his 1994 toxicology report for the Swiss Justice Department that Uwe Barschel was administered the lethal agent cyclobarbital (diazepam) last – much later than other sedatives and hypnotics. Cyclobarbital (diazepam) was in fact found in high concentrations in Barschel’s stomach in its undegraded form. It could not be found in his bladder. His body had apparently just started to break down this substance. Other drugs in the urine were more concentrated than in the blood and stomach – thus they were already in the body longer and already in the process of elimination. Brandenberger’s conclusion: Barschel was unable to move when the lethal agent cyclobarbital (diazepam) entered his bloodstream. It would have been impossible to resist.
…Brandenberger thinks, on the basis of chemical findings, he can show not only how Barschel died but who killed him. This is based on a different drug which, years ago, was detected in Barschel’s urine but which was not thought to play a major role in the case: the potent, addictive sleep aid Noludar.
Brandenberger, who has researched the drug for years and published on it, writes that he had long been unable to explain why Noludar was not found in the bladder in its degraded (metabolized) form. The substance is usually converted very quickly in the body to various other substances. In addition, the researcher found it striking that Noludar was found in the urine but not in the stomach, as would have been expected for normal ingestion in the form of tablets.
…It now appears that “the strong hypnotic Noludar was almost certainly administered rectally just before onset of death” — well after the cyclobarbital (diazepam). Likely reason: the killers probably wanted to hedge against the possibility that Barschel was found before his death and his stomach pumped out. The Noludar would still remain in the body and would have significantly extended the toxic effects.
…From the chemical analysis there is evidence of a well-planned murder executed by several people: in addition to the hypothesis of a difficult rectal administration, Barschel had to be administered cyclobarbital (diazepam) in a defenseless state. In all likelihood a procedure involving a stomach tube or the like. Brandenberger adds, “The chemical results point to a murder which (…) because of its complexity must be assumed to be that of a professional team, not a single person.”
…This is the first time a scientifically based confirmation of the controversial Ostrovsky report has been presented. There are striking parallels between the [latter’s] Mossad book and his chemical investigation, according to Brandenberger. Ostrovsky describes a scenario that matches remarkably well with the analytical data. In other words, Brandenberger’s research points a finger at the Mossad. The researcher emphasizes that his conclusions (murder, stomach tube, delivery of drugs in shifts, finally a rectal delivery) had already been made before he knew of Ostrovsky’s book. If so, two sources have independently drawn pictures of the actual crime which are similar in the smallest of details.
…We have to ask the question: what was the motive? Why did the Israeli secret service or someone else kill Barschel? After a smear campaign against his SPD opponent Bjorn Engholm and a sound election defeat, the CDU politician stood on the brink of political disaster. As a state Prime Minister he had already resigned. In this situation how could he be dangerous to anyone?
Many say that, yes, precisely because Barschel was so badly damaged, he was a threat. In the Lübeck prosecutor’s investigative file there are a number of statements that Barschel was somehow involved in dubious arms deals with transit going through Schleswig-Holstein. Depending on who one asks, the Prime Minister was either aware of, or participated in dirty deals with Czechoslovakia, the Apartheid regime in South Africa, or in the Middle East. Opinion is divided on whether Barschel had only grudgingly tolerated business that his predecessor as Prime Minister, Gerhard Stoltenberg (CDU), is said to have set in motion, or whether he was the driving force itself. There is no evidence for Barschel’s involvement, but there were numerous accounts from witnesses. Many see this as the motive for his murder. Barschel had wanted to use his upcoming testimony on the Pfeiffer-Kieler scandal to blow the whistle on what was going on.
If you believe…Victor Ostrovsky, it really was about Israel’s secret business with a hostile Iran, under the name “Operation Hannibal.” Israel had secretly delivered parts for F4 Phantom fighter planes to Tehran. Iran wanted to be able to strike harder in its war on Iraq. In order to disguise the origin of the armor, the delicate deliveries were carried out, among other places, via Kiel. In addition, Israelis would be training Iranian pilots in flight simulators on German soil – again in Schleswig-Holstein.
Besides the Mossad, the German Federal Intelligence Service was involved in the business. When the matter became more widely known Barschel refused to go along with it and, after the Pfeiffer scandal, planned to make everything public. Mossad just couldn’t take the risk, says Ostrovsky.
Dr. Brandenberger’s essay on his toxicological theories involving the death/murder are highly technical reading. But this concluding passage is very important to consider:
After the investigation had been discontinued [and I had completed my own work]…I reviewed books concerned with the case and also came across the report by Victor Ostrovsky…This book details a scenario of murder of Uwe Barschel at the hands of a group of Mossad people.
In contrast to other declarations of confessions or speculations, Ostrovsky’s details on the application of the drugs are quite well-compatible with the analytical-chemical data: The initial anesthetization using wine with [drug] additives, then—an hour later or more—application of a deadly dosage of hypnotics using a gastric tube, followed by the rectal application of a suppository containing a strong sedative.
Ostrovsky describes a scenario that fits the analysis data remarkably well. The chemical findings indicate murder. In particular,
1. it is certain that the deadly dosage of cyclobarbital was applied later than other strongly sedative drugs, most likely at a stage of lost capability to act,
2. it is virtually certain that the strong hypnotic Noludar was applied rectally, briefly before death occurred, which is incompatible with the assumption of…suicide,
3. because of the complexity of the murderous event it has to be assumed that this was the work of a team of professionals, as opposed to a single person.
Thanks to my two translators, Michael Palmer and someone who wishes to retain anonymity.