Court releases German terrorist after 26 years
Though Christian Klar has not shown any remorse for nine murders during his career as a 1970s urban guerrilla, the High Court in Stuttgart granted parole.
Berlin -- A former leader of Germany's terrorist Red Army Faction (RAF), Christian Klar, is to be freed in the next few weeks after serving 26 years of a life sentence, a court ruled Monday.
Though Klar, 56, has not indicated any remorse for nine murders during his career as a 1970s urban guerrilla, the High Court in Stuttgart in southwestern Germany, granted parole, ruling that he no longer presented a danger to society.
A court ruled in 1998 that Klar, who was detained in 1982, serve a minimum of 26 years confinement -- until Jan. 3, 2009 -- including the five concurrent life sentences later passed on him.
He has already been out of jail alone on day release. Sources said the prison near Stuttgart might now quietly let him go a couple of days earlier.
Survivors of the RAF's spree of violence voiced disappointment Monday.
Klar, who outraged many Germans by issuing a call from jail last year for the downfall of capitalism, co-led the RAF after the capture of its founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.
A fellow leader, Brigitte Mohnhaupt, was freed in March. 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.
Though the RAF is now history, there has been increased curiosity regarding the extremists, who believed that violence would make the democratic state turn repressive, then trigger a working-class revolution.
A feature film released this year, The Baader-Meinhof Complex, depicts murders and robberies carried out by the clandestine group.
It is currently on release in several European nations and is the German film board's official nomination for a 2009 Oscar as best foreign movie.
This Sunday, another new true-story dramatization, Mogadishu, premieres on ARD public television. It describes a 1977 hijacking of a Lufthansa plane by the terrorists. German troops recaptured the plane in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Back in West Germany, the terrorists, including Klar, avenged that setback by murdering Hanns Martin Schleyer, head of the West Germany employers' federation, whom they had kidnapped.
Among Klar's eight other counts of being a party to murder was the drive-by shooting of prosecutor-general Siegfried Buback, also in 1977.
His son, German chemistry professor Michael Buback, voiced disappointment Monday that Klar had never identified the gunman. Buback believes Klar ordered the killing but did not hold the gun.
"I don't assume that we relatives will ever gain closure by being told who did it," he said on WDR television, referring to the vow of silence that seems to still unite the ageing ex-terrorists.
The co-pilot who survived the 1977 plane hijack is to return his German honor in protest at Klar's release, according to the German tabloid, Bild.
Juergen Vietor had to fly the plane alone to Mogadishu after the pilot, Juergen Schumann, was murdered during a stop in Aden. Vietor, the three cabin crew and the 86 passengers survived, thanks to German specialist troops storming the plane in Somalia.
Vietor has written to German President Horst Koehler, saying Klar's release made a mockery of the victims. He was sending back the German cross of merit he had received for his bravery, Bild said.
Konrad Freiberg, chairman of the GdP police union, said the law made the release inevitable.
"But as a policeman who experienced the RAF terrorism period, I still feel deeply bitter," he said "Klar has not shown remorse or changed his views."
Josefine Koeblitz, a court spokeswoman, said Monday that judges had yet to test whether Klar was likely to commit serious crimes again.
Based on reports from psychologists and the prison governor, public prosecutors and the judges said this was unlikely.
He was arrested in 1982 and was convicted on nine counts of murder in 1985. Last year, President Koehler declined to grant clemency to Klar, on the grounds he had failed to show remorse.
Klar, who will be required to report his place of work and residence to the police for the next five years, has already been offered a trainee job at a taxpayer-funded Berlin theatre.
Most of the other terrorists have been freed after admitting that they were misguided. They have largely disappeared from public life.
Koeblitz said none of the released terrorists had re-offended. The fact that Klar's views were still "extremely critical" and that he was not sorry did not constitute grounds to keep him detained, she said.
From 1971 onwards, the RAF was responsible for more than 30 murders and kidnappings. Though it took many years for German police to track down all its key members and obtain convictions against them, the democratic state survived the crisis.