Germany to free Baader-Meinhof fighter
AFP - Tuesday, November 25
STUTTGART, Germany (AFP) - - One of two members still in prison from the left-wing Red Army Faction that terrorised West Germany in the 1970s will be freed in January after 26 years behind bars, a court ruled on Monday.
Christian Klar, in jail since 1982, will be freed on parole on January 3 after serving the minimum 26 years of his life sentence on nine counts of murder and 11 counts of attempted murder, the court in Stuttgart decided.
Klar, now 56, is one of only two surviving members of the RAF -- also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang after two of its founders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof -- still in jail.
"The court sees it as a heavy burden for his victims and his families that the convicted man has yet to distance himself from his serious crimes. But on the decisive question of whether (Klar) will commit other serious crimes this was not deemed ... to be decisive," the court said in a statement.
It also said that although Klar continued to make public comments that are "extremely critical" of German society, his behaviour is "completely changed (and) constructive" and he has "unequivocally ... distanced himself from the 'armed struggle'."
The RAF grew out of the 1960s civil rights movement, declaring war on what it said was a morally bankrupt West German state run by former Nazis, carrying out a wave of assassinations, bombings and kidnappings from 1970 onwards.
After Baader, Meinhof and other founder members were arrested in 1972, Klar and Brigitte Mohnhaupt took over the leadership of the group and embarked on a campaign of terror that shook West Germany to its foundations.
On April 7, 1977 they murdered federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, shot dead by a man on a motorbike with a machine gun along with his driver and a colleague while his Mercedes waited at traffic lights.
On July 30, RAF militants including Klar killed the chairman of Dresdner Bank, Juergen Ponto, in a shooting outside his house near Frankfurt in a failed kidnap attempt.
Then in a raid in September they abducted industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer, a former member of the Nazi SS, killing his driver and three others in the process.
Meinhof had been found hanged in her prison cell in 1976 but the kidnappers demanded the release of Baader and the other leaders Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe or they would kill Schleyer.
A month later the RAF hijacked a Lufthansa passenger plane with the help of Palestinian militants, diverting it to the Somali capital Mogadishu where it was stormed by elite German commandos on October 17.
The next morning Baader and fellow founding members Ensslin and Raspe were found dead in their cells -- sparking conspiracy theories that they were murdered -- and on October 19 the RAF killed Schleyer.
Many RAF members went underground in communist East Germany, but Klar stayed in the West, taking part in the near-fatal 1981 attack on the head of US forces in Europe, General Frederick Kroesen, using a Soviet anti-tank missile.
Police finally caught up with him in November 1982, arresting him in woods near Hamburg, aged 30 but looking gaunt and considerably older. He then spent seven years in solitary confinement in different top security prisons.
Mohnhaupt, who led the RAF with Klar after the group's original leaders were imprisoned, was released from prison in March 2007 after serving 24 years for her role in nine murders.
The group, which is believed to have killed a total of 34 people, abandoned violence in 1992 and formally disbanded in 1998.
In May 2007 German President Horst Koehler refused to pardon Klar or Birgit Hogefeld, the two remaining RAF members still in prison. Hogefeld is not eligible for release until 2011.
Four RAF members have never been caught: Friederike Krabbe, part of Klar's "second generation," as well as Daniela Klette, Ernst-Volker Staub and Burkhard Garweg, members of the third and final wave.
Krabbe, who is accused of involvement in Schleyer's kidnap and murder, was last reported to have been seen in Baghdad in 2003.
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