[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
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
countrys 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. Klars 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 Germanys 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
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
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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