German 1970s urban guerrilla leader freed

20th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Christian Klar, now 56, is one of only two surviving members of the RAF who was still in jail.

Berlin -- One of two members still in prison from the left-wing Red Army Faction that terrorized West Germany in the 1970s was released on Friday after 26 years behind bars, his lawyer said.

Christian Klar, in jail since 1982, was ordered freed on parole last month after serving the minimum 26 years of his life sentence on nine counts of murder and 11 counts of attempted murder.

"As of now he can decide for himself what he will do and where he will go," Klar's lawyer, Heinz-Juergen Schneider, told AFP.

He declined to specify where his client was, but stressed that "he will not be appearing on any talk shows".

Klar, now 56, was one of only two surviving members of the RAF -- also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang after two of its founders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof -- still in jail.

The last detained RAF member is Birgit Hogefeld, sentenced in 1993 to life imprisonment for murder. She is not eligible for release until 2011.

The court ruled in favor of Klar's release even though he has expressed no remorse for his actions.

But, despite his public comments "extremely critical" of German society, his behavior is "completely changed (and) constructive" and he has "unequivocally ... distanced himself from the 'armed struggle'," the court said.

Judicial authorities said he was released Friday rather than in January planned because his work in prison entitled him to days off his sentence.

The RAF grew out of the 1960s civil rights movement, declaring war on what it said was a morally bankrupt West German state run by former Nazis, carrying out a wave of assassinations, bombings and kidnappings from 1970 onwards.

After Baader, Meinhof and other founder members were arrested in 1972, Klar and Brigitte Mohnhaupt took over the leadership of the group and embarked on a campaign of terror that shook West Germany to its foundations.

On April 7, 1977 they murdered federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, shot dead by a man on a motorbike with a machine gun along with his driver and a colleague as his Mercedes waited at traffic lights.

On July 30, RAF militants including Klar killed the chairman of Dresdner Bank, Juergen Ponto, in a shooting outside his house near Frankfurt in a failed kidnap attempt.

Many RAF members went underground in communist East Germany, but Klar stayed in the West, taking part in the near-fatal 1981 attack on the head of US forces in Europe, General Frederick Kroesen.

Police finally caught up with him in November 1982, arresting him in woods near Hamburg, aged 30 but looking gaunt and considerably older. He then spent seven years in solitary confinement in different top security prisons.

Mohnhaupt was released from prison in March 2007 after serving 24 years for her role in nine murders.

The group, which is believed to have killed a total of 34 people, abandoned violence in 1992 and formally disbanded in 1998.

In May 2007 German President Horst Koehler refused to pardon Klar or Hogefeld.

Four RAF members have never been caught: Friederike Krabbe, part of Klar's "second generation," as well as Daniela Klette, Ernst-Volker Staub and Burkhard Garweg, members of the third and final wave.


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