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Terrorism trial

September 30, 2010

Decades after Germany's leading prosecutor was killed by the far-left Red Army Faction group, ex-member Verena Becker is on trial for her role. The case remains a loose end from the political violence of the 1970s.

Verena Becker, wearing large sunglasses
Becker served time for other offenses and was pardonedImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The trial began on Thursday of former far-left Red Army Faction (RAF) member Verena Becker over alleged involvement in the murder in 1977 of West Germany's most senior public prosecutor and two other people.

Prosecutor General Siegfried Buback, a bodyguard and a driver were killed when an unidentified individual riding on the back of a motorcycle fired bullets into their Mercedes in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe.

The scene of the 1977 murders
Buback and his bodyguards were killed in their MercedesImage: AP

A state court near Stuttgart is scheduled to hear the trial over a total of 17 days, lasting until December 21.

Becker is alleged to have been part of a group that "maliciously killed three people out of base motives," the court was told by prosecutor Walter Hemberger.

Although the 58-year-old is not accused of firing the shots, prosecutors claim that she helped in the planning of the murders.

The prosecution said that Becker was determined to carry out the intentions of RAF leader Andreas Baader, who was in prison at the time and had called for Buback's murder.

An unusually large number of spectators at the trial meant that its opening was delayed. The defense said Becker, who appeared wearing large sunglasses, would not be speaking in court.

Former RAF members Christian Klar and Knut Folkerts were convicted of involvement, but the identity of the actual perpetrator was never revealed.

Becker served 12 years of a life sentence in prison for attempted murder, after she was arrested in a shootout with police a month after Buback's murder. She was pardoned in 1989 by former German president Richard von Weizsaecker.

Case closed, reopened

Any involvement by Becker in the Buback killings was never proved and the case against her was closed in 1980.

Siegfried Buback
Buback was seen as part of the establishment by the groupImage: AP

It was reopened in 2008 when newly developed forensic techniques revealed traces of DNA on a letter by the gang, claiming responsibility.

Becker was re-arrested in August 2009 and charged in April with conspiracy to murder. She could now face another life sentence, although it is believed the length of time she would actually serve would be reduced in view of the time she has already spent in prison.

Siegfried Buback's son, Michael Buback, said earlier this year he felt "extraordinarily relieved" by prosecutors' decision to pursue the case.

The proceedings are taking place at Stammheim outside Stuttgart, the same place where Becker was convicted in 1977.

The killings were among several operations by the RAF, sometimes called the Baader-Meinhof Gang, as its campaign against what it considered to be an oppressive West German capitalist state reached its peak.

Richard Connor (AFP/dpa/Reuters)

Editor: Nancy Isenson