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Mohnhaupt could soon be released from prisonImage: AP

Releasing a Terrorist?

DW staff (tt)
January 22, 2007

Germany's Federal Prosecutor's Office filed a motion for the release of former RAF terrorist Brigitte Mohnhaupt after 24 years in prison.


The Regional Appeal Court in Stuttgart announced that a representative of the Federal Prosecutor's Office recommended that Mohnhaupt be granted parole during a closed hearing before a panel of judges on Monday.

Mohnhaupt was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1985 for her involvement with the Red Army Faction (RAF), a group of students and intellectuals who committed a series of kidnappings, robberies and bombing in the 1970s and 1980s as they planned to engineer a communist uprising by the West German working class. At least 30 people including prominent industrialists and businessmen were killed in RAF attacks.

As part of the Red Army Faction RAF "second generation" -- after the founders Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin committed suicides in jail in 1976 and 1977, Mohnhaupt led a 1977 RAF kidnapping in which Hanns Martin Schleyer, head of the West German employers' federation, was seized from his car, and found dead 44 days later.

She was arrested in 1982.

A humane gesture

"An act of clemency would be a humane gesture," said Green party politician Volker Beck. "It would be a signal of reconciliation, which is appropriate after more than 20 years in prison."

Volker Beck
Volker BeckImage: AP

Beck stressed, however, that no act of clemency or presidential pardon would "retrospectively relativize the injustice of the acts or the pain of the victims."

Schleyer's widow, on the other hand, was appalled by the prospect of a former terrorist being released from prison.

"Do not set my husband's killer free," Waltrude Schleyer told the daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung. "I will never be able to forgive Brigitte Mohnhaupt. To this day, she never apologized to me."

Calm and self-confident

Prison officials say Mohnhaupt has been well-behaved in the prison in Bavaria and no longer poses threat to society.

A letter announcing RAF's dissolution
RAF officially ceased to exist in 1998Image: dpa

"I am certain that she will never commit another crime again," prison warden Wolfgang Deuschl told the Web site of the German weekly Stern. "She will not kill anybody, those times are over.

"The former fanatical terrorist has become a calm, self-confident and helpful person," he added. "I can say that I don't find her disagreeable at all."

Mohnhaupt has already made nine excursions from prison, with armed police watching her, to prepare her for a changed world that is connected by the Internet and only dimly remembers communism.

The court is expected to reach a decision by mid-February.

Presidential pardon?

Christian Klar
Christian KlarImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Last week, German President Horst Köhler indicated that he may grant clemency to Christian Klar, one of the four remaining RAF members still being held in prison. A spokesman from the German president's office confirmed that the president had requested the German Justice Ministry for a statement on the case.

Klar, now 54, was convicted along with Mohnhaupt in 1985 for nine killings and 11 counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He has also never renounced his ideas, telling an interviewer in 2001 he still wanted Germany to make a "fresh start" and would never abjure what the RAF had done, "though I do not contemplate reviving the armed struggle."

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