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German furore over release of 70s guerrillas

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German furore over release of 70s guerrillas


In Germany, a row has broken out over the possible release from jail of two members of a left-wing terrorist group which ran amok in the 70s and 80s. Brigitte Mohnhaupt, a leader of the Red Army Faction, was sentenced to life in 1985 for her role in nine murders of leading German establishment figures.

Earlier this month federal prosecutors filed a request for her release. Now the President is considering a pardon for Mohnhaupt’s former colleague, Christian Klar, who is also serving time in prison. Both were involved in the murders of Dresdner Bank head, Juergen Ponto, and federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, who was shot in his car while waiting at a traffic light.

The Red Army Faction’s most high profile victim was Hans-Martin Schleyer, the president of West Germany’s powerful employers association. He was held hostage for a month before being executed in a forest in France. The identity of his killer remains a mystery.

Many politicians argue that Klar and Mohnhaupt have served their time and no longer pose a threat to society but the move to release them has outraged relatives of the victims. Schleyer’s son said: “The worst part is that we still don’t know who pulled the trigger, who the actual murderer was. I don’t understand why the pardon request was made when neither of them have expressed any remorse.”

But, for others, remorse is not the issue as they seek to draw a line under a turbulent period of violence that shook West Germany to the core. Stuttgart prosecutor Klaus Pfieger said: “Many people are shaking their heads about a possible release. But they must realise that his penal term has come to an end. This shows the sovereignty of the country giving such people a second chance.”

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