Germany frees former Red Army Faction leader

December 20th, 2008 - 7:58 am ICT by IANS  

Stuttgart, Dec 20 (DPA) Christian Klar, 56, a leader of the Red Army Faction (RAF) urban terrorist movement three decades ago in Germany, was released from jail Friday, four weeks after judges approved his parole.Germany’s best known prisoner quietly slipped away from Bruchsal Prison near Stuttgart in the early morning before the news media were alerted. His lawyer said Klar was moving to Berlin and would give no interviews.

It was not known if Klar would take up a much criticized offer from a maverick Berlin theatre chief, Claus Peymann, to engage the ex-terrorist as a trainee technician at a tax-payer-funded theatre.

Klar’s lawyer, Heinz-Juergen Schneider, said it was still not clear if the offer was a firm one or if Klar’s probation officer would approve him working at the downtown Berliner Ensemble theatre.

Klar must report regularly to police for five years.

The theatre offered no comment. Critics have voiced concern that Klar might seek a career as an actor or celebrity.

Germans have been divided over the release of a man whose nine murders included a drive-by shooting of a federal prosecutor-general and the brutal execution-style shooting of a kidnapped industrialist.

A small hard left minority still admires the terrorist movement, whose belief that their bloodbath would trigger a communist uprising caused West Germany’s worst crisis of the past half century.

A year ago, Germany’s President Horst Koehler met Klar in person, but denied him clemency because he showed no remorse for his career as a terrorist. However judges ruled Nov 24 that Klar no longer presented a danger to society and was entitled to parole when 2008 was complete. The exact date was kept secret in advance.

Although Klar spent more time in prison than any other RAF members, some critics felt that even 26 years was not enough for a man serving five concurrent life sentences who has never said he was sorry.

But Joerg Schleyer, son of the industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer murdered in 1977, said, “I wouldn’t believe a show of remorse from such a brutal, inhumane man.” He said the terrorists had been common criminals, not political opponents.

“That also means you cannot deny them the benefits that the rule of law grants any criminal,” he said. Germany often paroles people serving life after as little as 15 years. Klar’s judges directed he serve at least 26 years.

Another son, Michael Buback called on Klar to name the masked gunman who murdered his father, prosecutor Siegfried Buback.

Klar was convicted as party to the murder, but the son said he worried that the gunmen might be people who had completely escaped punishment and were being protected by Klar’s silence.

Schneider, the ex-terrorist’s lawyer, said Klar would not be appearing on television talk shows or giving interviews.

That suggested he would vanish into anonymity like Brigitte Mohnhaupt, 59, his co-leader during the worst of the killings in 1977. She was freed in March 2007 and has avoided publicity.

“He is going to decide himself what he will be doing and where,” said Schneider, who said Klar was “pleased” to be out of prison at last.

Klar and Mohnhaupt were the key figures in the “second generation” of the so-called Baader-Meinhof Gang in a wave of bombings, kidnaps, assassinations and bank robberies.

There is only one RAF member still in jail: Birgit Hogefeld, 52. She was a third-generation leader of the violent communist group founded by the late Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. It dissolved itself in 1998.

A feature film released this year, “The Baader-Meinhof Complex”, depicts some of the murders and robberies carried out by the clandestine group. Germany’s film export board has nominated it for a best-foreign-film Oscar.

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