German court to free Red Army Faction killer

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The Independent Online

A German court today approved parole for one of the last jailed members of the Red Army Faction in a case that has helped revive painful memories of the left-wing terrorist group's 1970s heyday.

Brigitte Mohnhaupt, 57, may be released in late March after serving 24 years of a life sentence for multiple murders, the Stuttgart state court ruled.

Mohnhaupt was convicted in 1985 of involvement in nine murders, including those of West German chief federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback and of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, the head of the country's industry federation. She was given five life sentences on the murder charges and lesser counts.

Mohnhaupt was a leader in the RAF, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, which sought to combat what it saw as capitalist oppression of workers and US imperialism.

Active from 1970 — when it grew out of student anti-Vietnam war protests — until 1992, when it abandoned violence, the group formally disbanded in 1998.

The RAF carried out kidnappings, bank robberies and armed attacks on prominent government and business figures, leaving a trail of death during what became known as the "German Autumn" of 1977.

US military facilities and personnel in Germany were also targeted, and the group had ties to Palestinian radicals and to the communist East German secret police, the Stasi.

Over the decades, RAF members killed 34 people and injured hundreds of others. In addition to their prominent targets, victims included bystanders, police officers and chauffeurs.

Mohnhaupt had petitioned for her release in a bid for parole that was supported by prosecutors in a hearing behind closed doors in January.

The Stuttgart court last year rejected an earlier Mohnhaupt petition for freedom on the grounds that she must serve at least 24 years.

The ruling comes at the same time as a separate petition for clemency from Germany's president by another convicted Red Army Faction member, Christian Klar. Klar still has two years to serve before qualifying for possible parole.

While some say Mohnhaupt and Klar, like other convicted murderers, have a right to parole under German law, others want to see expressions of remorse and clarification of open questions over who actually pulled the trigger in the murders of Buback, Schleyer and others.