[Ppnews] Red Army Faction Member Released From German Prison after 26 years

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 19 19:06:55 EST 2008


Red Army Faction Member Released From German Prison
By JUDY DEMPSEY
Published: December 19, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/world/europe/20germany.html?ref=europe

BERLIN ­ Christian Klar, one of the last members 
of the terrorist Red Army Faction to remain in 
prison, was released Friday after serving 26 
years of a life sentence, according to the 
Justice Ministry in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

The Red Army Faction, a far-left group that was 
also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, carried 
out a series of assassinations of leading German 
figures during the late 1970s and early 1980s, 
killing 34 people. It disbanded in 1998, several 
years after renouncing violence. It subscribed to 
a Marxist-Leninist ideology and sought to 
overthrow the capitalist West German government 
and to fight perceived American imperialism.

A German court announced the pending release of 
Mr. Klar, 55, last month. He had received a a 
life sentence for killing three prominent West 
Germans and their bodyguards and trying to kill a 
United States Army general. He was released a few 
weeks earlier than planned after the authorities 
in Stuttgart said he no longer posed a threat. He 
will remain on parole for five years.

Two years ago, Mr. Klar asked President Horst 
Köhler to grant him a pardon and early release, 
but the request was turned down. Mr. Klar, who at 
the time of his arrest in 1982 was considered the 
country’s most-wanted terrorist fugitive, was 
sentenced for, among other crimes, participating 
in the kidnapping and murder of Hanns-Martin 
Schleyer, the head of the German employers’ 
federation; the assassination of Siegfried 
Buback, a federal prosecutor, as he rode in his 
chauffeured car; and the killing of Jürgen Ponto, 
chairman of Dresdner Bank, in his home.

With Mr. Klar’s release, Birgit Hogefeld is the 
last member of the Red Army Faction to remain 
behind bars. A fellow gang member, Brigitte 
Mohnhaupt, was released last year after serving 
24 years in prison for murders in the 1970s. Eva 
Haule, who was convicted of participating in the 
murder of an American soldier in 1985 and the 
later bombing of the Rhein-Main Air Base on the 
outskirts of Frankfurt when it was the main base 
for United States forces in Europe, was also 
released last year, after 21 years in prison.

In an effort to crack down on the movement in the 
1970s and 1980s, the authorities at first reacted 
by introducing emergency legislation and curbing civil liberties.

Jailed terrorists were denied access to their 
lawyers, and at one stage armored personnel 
carriers patrolled Bonn, then the seat of the 
West German government. Prison conditions for Red 
Army Faction members were criticized by some 
liberal politicians, who started questioning why 
West Germany’s postwar generation had acted so 
violently against the state, and slowly the tough measures were reversed.

Mr. Klar was held in solitary confinement for 
seven years. Several terrorists committed suicide 
in prison, giving rise to speculation that they 
might have been murdered by state commandos.
******************************************************************************
Former German terrorist released after 26 years
By MELISSA EDDY, Associated Press Writer Melissa 
Eddy, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 32 mins ago
December 19, 2008
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hYkJ7sq0CpUxO3J9MbKwXkem0qnAD955VPMO0

BERLIN – Throughout the 1970s, the Red Army 
Faction was the scourge of capitalist West 
Germany and Christian Klar one of its most 
notorious leaders ­ the force behind a murder 
spree that included the slayings of a federal 
prosecutor, an industrialist and the chief of a major bank.
On Friday, Klar walked free from prison after 26 
years ­ angering family and friends of victims 
and many Germans who recalled the fear of living 
through the Marxist-Leninist group's terror 
campaign, which killed 34 people and injured 
hundreds before the group formally disbanded in 1998.

Opponents of Klar's release argue he has never 
expressed regret for his crimes, nor explicitly 
distanced himself from the Red Army Faction 
mantra that it was justified in its brutal 
response to what it viewed as capitalist 
oppression of workers and U.S. imperialism in West Germany.
"That a hardened criminal who was handed six life 
sentences could be released under such 
circumstances may be legally justifiable, but 
remains very difficult to accept," said Stephan 
Mayer, a lawmaker for the conservative Christian Democratic Union.

German law is based on the principle of 
rehabilitation and it is very common for 
convicted murderers to serve less than 20 years 
for life sentences. Several other former members 
of the Red Army Faction have also been released.

Only one former member of the group, Birgit 
Hogefeld, remains in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2011.

Yet as a ringleader of the group's second 
generation, which carried out the "German 
Autumn," an especially bloody period of leftist 
violence in late 1977, Klar is perhaps Germany's 
most prominent former left-wing terrorist to walk free.

As the decades have passed, the Red Army Faction 
has become the stuff of pop culture, giving rise 
to a string of television dramas and feature 
films, many of which have faced criticism for 
glamorizing the era and portraying the young 
killers as Robin Hood-type characters.
Several of the group's symbols, such as its 
trademark machine gun and red star, have found 
their way into fashion items, from T-shirts to 
infant's bodysuits marked "Terrorist."

The latest movie, "The Baader Meinhof Complex," 
directed by Uli Edel, came out in September and 
has been chosen as Germany's contender for a 
foreign-language Oscar nomination ­ despite 
criticism from families of the gang members that 
it misrepresents the group and is too violent.
In its early years RAF was often referred to as 
the Baader-Meinhof gang, after leading members 
Andreas Baader ­ who killed himself in prison 
after failed efforts to secure his release 
through extortion ­ and Ulrike Meinhof, who also committed suicide in prison.

Under Klar, the so-called second generation of 
the group went on to bomb U.S. military targets 
and assassinate a string of business and political figures.

Among the murders for which Klar was convicted 
were those of chief West German federal 
prosecutor Siegfried Buback, industrial 
association head Hanns-Martin Schleyer, and 
Dresdner Bank chief Juergen Ponto ­ all carried out in 1977.

Buback's son has repeatedly urged Klar to explain 
who pulled the trigger on his father when he and 
his two drivers were gunned down on April 7, 
1977. Yet despite a fierce public debate and a 
review of the case, ordered by the nation's top 
security official, Klar has remained silent.

Asked Friday if he would be willing to speak with 
Klar, Buback said that while he wouldn't seek him 
out, he wouldn't hang up if he called.

"If Christian Klar would call me to tell me about 
what he or others did, of course I would speak 
with him," Buback told Focus weekly. "After all, 
we are still searching for the truth."
Klar's lawyer, Heinz-Juergen Schneider, expressed 
doubt his client would seek to make any 
statements to the public, insisting Klar was seeking to start a normal life.

Klar has been in prison since his arrested on 
Nov. 16, 1982. Ten years later, he was sentenced 
to six concurrent life sentences, as well as 
individual 15-year, 14-year and 12-year sentences.
According to Schneider, Klar plans to move to 
Berlin, where he was taking up an offer of 
apprenticeship at one of the nation's leading 
theaters, the Berliner Ensemble ­ founded by 
legendary leftwing playwright Berthold Brecht ­ as a stage technician.

The theater's director, Claus Peymann said at the 
time he felt Klar deserved a chance to try to 
reintegrate into society after so many years in prison.
******************************************************************************
Former Left-wing Terrorist Christian Klar Released
Deutsche Welle, December 19, 2008
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3888586,00.html

Christian Klar, 56, a former leader of the Red 
Army Faction (RAF) urban terrorist movement in 
Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, was released from 
jail Friday, justice officials in Stuttgart said.

Klar was granted parole by judges on November 24 
after he had served 26 years of five concurrent 
life sentences. He had previously been denied 
parole, with a Stuttgart court ruling in 1998 
that he needed to complete at least that much of his sentence.

One of the leading figures of the second 
generation of the left-wing group RAF, Klar was 
sentenced for his role in the kidnapping and 
murder of industry representative Hanns Martin 
Schleyer as well as the murders of Federal 
Prosecutor Siegfried Buback and Dresdner Bank CEO 
Juergen Ponto. He has not indicated remorse for 
the nine murders he was tried for and it remains 
unclear what his exact role was in those killings.

Klar has continued to observe a vow of silence 
taken among the group's members, refusing to 
disclose which of the masked figures committed 
the most brutal murders. Judges, however, have 
ruled that he no longer presents a danger to society.

Victims outraged at release

Some survivors of the RAF's brutalities said last 
month they were angry that life imprisonment did 
not mean the full term of Klar's life.

"It is intolerable that a violent criminal who 
caused people such immeasurable pain and has 
never distanced himself from his grave crimes 
will soon be given freedom," Hamburg's interior 
minister, Christoph Ahlhaus, said after learning of Klar's impending release.

Judges said in November that Klar, who served 
longer in jail than any other RAF member, should 
be freed on or around January 3, 2009. Possibly 
to thwart media attention, the precise date was not announced in advance.

Second last RAF member to leave jail

Heinz-Juergen Schneider, his lawyer, said Klar 
had left the jail during the morning and would not be giving any interviews.

"He is going to decide himself what he will be 
doing and where," said Schneider.

There is only one RAF member still in jail: 
Birgit Hogefeld, 52. She was a third-generation 
leader of the violent communist group, which dissolved itself in 1998.

A feature film released this year, The 
Baader-Meinhof Complex, depicts murders and 
robberies carried out by the clandestine group.





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