BONN, OCT. 19 -- Berlin police, acting without a search warrant, stormed the headquarters of the former East German Communist Party early today and spent six hours combing for evidence that the party had embezzled $67 million and sent it to the Soviet Union.
Communist leaders denounced the raid as political terrorism by a German government unwilling to accept Communists in the parliament even after they have been elected in a free vote. Berlin public prosecutor Bernd Stange said the police acted even though "there isn't the slightest suspicion that the party . . . misappropriated funds."
About 150 officers clad in bulletproof vests spent the night searching through files in party offices, including that of party chairman Gregor Gysi, who has been a member of the all-German parliament since unification earlier this month. Gysi accused the police of violating his legislative immunity.
After the raid, a Berlin city official confirmed that the police had no warrant, but said officers found evidence that the Communists -- now known as the Party of Democratic Socialism -- had placed the $67 million in a Soviet bank account.
The official, Erich Paetzold, said the raid was necessary to prove that the party had embezzled money and sent it abroad.
But Gysi said -- and prosecutors confirmed -- that the payment was an outstanding debt to the Soviet Communist Party for the education of East German students in the Soviet Union. The Soviets had sent the bill last January, when East Germany was still run by the Communists. The East German party transferred the money to the University of Friendship of the Peoples in Moscow last month, according to Paetzold.
Gysi called the police action "monstrous" and said, "We will not tolerate being treated like this." Another party official, Klaus Steinitz, told Reuter that the last time police burst into Communist headquarters was during the Nazis' power grab. "This is 1990, not 1933," Steinitz said.
The Communists have won decreasing shares of the vote in the three elections in the eastern part of Germany since March but still have 22 seats in the 663-member parliament, or Bundestag.
Until the two Germanys united this month, West Germany was accustomed to governing without Communists. West Germany banned the Communist Party of Germany in 1956. A successor group, the German Communist Party, never met the constitutional requirement that a party must win at least 5 percent of the vote in order to hold seats in the Bonn parliament.