After 25 years Carlos the Jackal gets his revenge

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The Independent Online

Twenty-five years after his crime, the German urban guerrilla Hans-Joachim Klein stood in a Frankfurt courtroom yesterday, accusing his former commander, "Carlos the Jackal", of lying, and implicating Libya in state terrorism.

Twenty-five years after his crime, the German urban guerrilla Hans-Joachim Klein stood in a Frankfurt courtroom yesterday, accusing his former commander, "Carlos the Jackal", of lying, and implicating Libya in state terrorism.

It is Mr Klein, though, who is in the dock, charged with complicity in the murders of three people during the infamous attack on an Opec meeting in Vienna in December 1975. He can hardly deny being there, since he was himself shot in the stomach in Vienna, but claims to have fired at no one.

The prosecution, however, has a witness up its sleeve, who is expected to testify that Mr Klein did pull the fatal trigger. The name of the witness is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez - Carlos the Jackal himself. The two former colleagues, now mortal enemies, are scheduled to confront each other on 23 November, either in Frankfurt, if the French authorities will allow, or in Paris, where Carlos is serving his long jail sentence.

The other actors of the drama will try to keep a lower profile. For this trial comes at an inconvenient time for several people in high places, and not just for the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the former czar of state terrorism who has lately been working hard to have himself rehabilitated in the Western world.

"My friend Joschka Fischer," received a fond mention in Mr Klein's testimony yesterday, as did Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the French MEP and former revolutionary leader known in his youthful days as Danny the Red. When the two worlds - urban terrorism and anarchic but legal parliamentary politics - parted in the late 70s, Mr Klein was stranded in the middle. He now represents the missing link between those that ended up shot or in jail - such as Carlos - or successfully cleansed their murky past and climbed the greasy pole of politics.

Now the trial brings it all back, much to the dismay of Germany's Foreign Minister.

The country's current political masters can be excused for striving to focus exclusively on the events in Vienna. "We are not concerned with the roles of people who are still politically active today," the Presiding Judge, Heinrich Gehrke, declared at the outset.

But Mr Klein was keen to illuminate the road that led him to Vienna three days before Christmas Eve 1975. He and Mr Fischer and Mr Cohn-Bendit belonged to the revolutionary "community" in Frankfurt. Mr Klein was all washed out, having failed to complete his apprenticeship as a car mechanic. He joined the Reds, many of whom would later become the Greens. "In the group I found solidarity and a bit of love," he told the court.

In 1974 the Red Army Faction terrorist Holger Meins died after a hunger strike in jail. Mr Klein was outraged and decided then that demonstrating was not enough. "It became clear to me that we must do something more than support people in prison. In an emergency, we had to participate in armed actions ourselves," he said. He switched to the Red Cells, a rival to the RAF.

In his testimony, Mr Klein claimed to have been recruited for the Vienna job by the co-defendant, Rudolf Schindler, a 57-year old man who insists he is the victim of mistaken identity. What is beyond dispute is that Mr Klein was a member of the six-strong commando unit that stormed into the Opec headquarters, killing a local employee, an Iraqi bodyguard and an Austrian policeman.

Two of the three fatal bullets have been traced. Carlos himself fired the first one, and Gabriela Tiedemann, alias "Nada", is believed to have fired the second. She died of cancer five years ago. Carlos says Mr Klein is responsible for the third.

After receiving emergency treatment, Mr Klein and the rest of the group were allowed to fly to Algiers with 35 hostages. The latter were freed, the perpetrators vanished.

Carlos went in one direction, Mr Klein in another. Two years after the Opec attack, the German magazine Spiegel received a parcel in the post, containing Mr Klein's handgun and a letter announcing his retirement from the urban guerrilla scene. The armed struggle, he confessed, had become "senseless". The package contained a list of Jewish targets that Carlos was allegedly planning to attack.

In 1979 came the full mea culpa. In a book entitled Return to Humanity, Mr Klein denounced Carlos as a "megalomaniac murderer" and spoke of his sorrow over his past actions.

But to humanity, he could not come back on his own terms. Living under a false name, in fear of Carlos's revenge and the long arm of the law, he wound up in France, dependent on Mr Cohn-Bendit's moral and financial support.

Mr Klein had conducted protracted negotiations with German agents over an orderly home-coming. The talks looked promising, yet two years ago French gendarmes abruptly picked him up from his hide-out and extradited him to Germany, perhaps to help discredit Mr Klein's friends, who were then in opposition. But at least this way he will get the chance to meet Carlos for one last time.