Germany to Free Former Leader of Left-Wing Terror Group | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.02.2007
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Germany

Germany to Free Former Leader of Left-Wing Terror Group

A German court has ruled that a former member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), Brigitte Mohnhaupt will walk free on parole on March 27 after serving 24 years for multiple murders.

Brigitte Mohnhaupt

Brigitte Mohnhaupt will be released on parole after 24 years in prison

After consulting the prosecutors and a psychiatric expert for Mohnhaupt's case, a state court in Stuttgart found "no indications … that she could commit future serious offenses." Mohnhaupt will serve the remainder of her sentence on parole.

The case has revived painful memories of the RAF's violent campaign of the 1970s. Also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang after its founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, The Red Army Faction murdered a string of high-profile German establishment figures from 1977 to 1982 as it attempted to bring down what it considered an oppressive capitalist state.

The group is suspected of killing 34 people between 1972 and 1991. Some 26 RAF members died during that period and another 26 were sentenced to life in prison.

Mohnhaupt, now 57, had risen to the ranks of the RAF's "second-generation" leadership in 1977. She has never explicitly apologized for the bloodshed.

Christian Klar

The photo of Schleyer, held hostage by the RAF for over a month, became an iconic image of 1970s West Germany

In 1977, Mohnhaupt took part in the abductions and subsequent murders of West Germany's chief federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, head of the West German employers' federation Hanns-Martin Schleyer and Dresdner Bank chief executive Jürgen Ponto. Brigitte Mohnhaupt was captured in 1982, convicted of involvement in nine murders and sentenced to five life sentences in 1985.

Mohnhaupt has already made nine excursions from prison, with armed police watching her, to prepare her for a changed world that is connected up by the internet and only dimly remembers communism, which began crumbling in Europe in 1989.

Monday's court decision does not come as a surprise, since prosecutors had previously supported Mohnhaupt's bid for parole at a closed hearing in Stuttgart on January 22.

Other RAF Members Await Clemency

The former terrorist had petitioned for parole once already on Feb 21, 2006, but was rejected because she had not yet served the minimum required sentence of 24 years, a provision that grew out of the "unusual gravity of the crime." That sentence expires on March 26.

Der ehemalige RAF-Terrorist Christian Klar

Christian Klar is still awaiting a decision on his plea for clemency

Mohnhaupt's release comes at the same time as another petition for clemency filed by convicted Red Army Faction leader Christian Klar. Because Klar, 54, still has two years to serve before qualifying for possible parole, his only chance for an early release is a special pardon from German President Horst Köhler, who is currently reviewing the case. Former President Johannes Rau already rejected a previous petition for clemency.

Klar, who like Mohnhaupt came from a well-off family and went to
university to study philosophy before becoming a terrorist, is
reported to have been well behaved in jail. A Berlin theatre has
promised him a two-year staff internship if he is released.

Klar 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."

Both Mohnhaupt and Klar's cases have sparked a furious debate in Germany pitting outraged relatives of the RAF's victims against some politicians who say the killers have done their time and no longer pose a threat to society.

Besides Klar, the only other members of the RAF still in prison are Eva Haule and Birgit Hogefeld. Most of the terrorist organization's original leaders committed suicide in jail during the 1970s.

The group abandoned violence in 1992 and formally disbanded in 1998.

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