- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

BERLIN — A German left-wing terrorist serving five life sentences for her part in a campaign of murder and kidnapping that shook West Germany in the 1970s may soon be released because federal prosecutors supported her appeal for parole.

Brigitte Mohnhaupt, 57, who was a senior member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), has spent more than 24 years in jail for the murders of three top members of Germany’s establishment: a banker, a federal prosecutor and the president of West Germany’s employers’ federation.

The federal prosecutor’s office backed her appeal for release after a psychological report concluded that she no longer poses a danger to society. The senior district court in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, is expected to decide on the request in early February.

Meanwhile, German President Horst Koehler is expected to review an appeal for clemency by RAF terrorist Christian Klar, who has also served 24 years for murder but who doesn’t formally come up for a parole hearing until 2009.

News of Mohnhaupt’s potential release has angered many Germans.

“These people don’t deserve mercy,” Waltrude Schleyer, the widow of murdered employer federation chief Hanns-Martin Schleyer, told Bild newspaper. “To this day neither Klar nor Mohnhaupt have shown any sign of remorse, or apologized.”

Former Interior Minister Gerhard Baum said: “Under our legal tradition, a life sentence doesn’t mean that the punishment is for life. Twenty-four years are enough.

“I can understand the relatives of the murder victims, but the sentence was passed in the name of the people and the state is not irreconcilable. Even criminals who have committed terrible crimes can be re-integrated into society.”

The case has brought back memories of the terrorist campaign that rocked the West German state and prompted anti-terrorism legislation on the scale of the civil rights curbs introduced in the United States after the September 11 attacks.

The Red Army Faction, also known as the “Baader-Meinhof gang” after its founding members, emerged from the 1968 student protest movement. It saw itself as a communist urban guerrilla group waging an armed struggle against Western “imperialism” and a West German establishment it believed was infested with former Nazis.

Founded by journalist Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, it carried out arson attacks on department stores, bombed government buildings and U.S. military sites, robbed banks and engaged in assassinations and kidnappings. It is believed to have killed 34 persons, while 27 of its own members died in shootouts with police or through suicide.

The campaign culminated in 1977 with a series of slayings and a plane hijacking as the group and allied Palestinian terrorists tried to force the West German government to release Baader and two other RAF members from jail. The three committed suicide in prison when the government failed to give in.

Mohnhaupt is regarded as one of the hard-liners among the four Red Army Faction members still in jail. Unlike others, she didn’t cooperate with justice authorities to secure an early release.

She and Klar killed Juergen Ponto, the chief executive officer of Dresdner Bank, in July 1977 by walking up to his front door with a bunch of flowers and gunning him down on his doorstep as he turned around to look for a vase.

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