Baader-Meinhof mercy plea revives German split over student


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Baader-Meinhof mercy plea revives German split over student terrorism
Times Online
A smiling couple arrived bearing a bouquet of roses on the doorstep of the chief executive of Dresdner Bank. As the banker, Jürgen Ponto, turned to call for a vase, he was shot five times through the flowers by a woman terrorist.

That was almost 30 years ago, and yesterday the woman, Brigitte Mohnhaupt, pleaded with German judges to be allowed out on parole.

Now Germany has to decide if it should make its peace with the terrorists of the 1970s. The Baader-Meinhof Gang — later known as the Red Army Faction — killed 34 people, many of them members of the political and business elite.

The State, the police and the judiciary reacted with surprising ferocity, imposing years of solitary confinement on some of the captured terrorists.

It is an issue that still divides German society. Many politicians came to maturity during the 1968 student revolt or the years of ideological terrorism that it spawned. Liberal leaders, such as the Green deputy Antje Vollmer, say that even Nazi war criminals have not had to serve the lengths of the sentences handed down to the Baader-Meinhof followers. Other politicians and relatives of the victims say that there can be no forgiveness.

Mohnhaupt and her fellow killer Christian Klar were hardcore members of the gang. Besides killing Mr Ponto, they also shot dead the West German prosecutor-general Siegfried Buback and abducted, tortured and killed Hanns-Martin Schleyer, head of the West German Employers’ Federation.

Mohnhaupt was sentenced to five life terms and an extra 15 years. The judges took the unusual step of ordering that she stay behind bars for at least 24 years before being allowed to apply for parole.

Those 24 years were up yesterday. The woman who was led by a phalanx of police in bulletproof vests into a fortified Stuttgart courtroom no longer resembled the woman of the “Wanted” posters. Then, she was a resolute-looking blonde with mascara and thin lips. Today the 57-year-old has greying hair, bonier features and the sallowness of someone allowed outside for only an hour a day.

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