RAF Member out of Jail Prison Releases German Terrorist Christian Klar

After 26 years in jail, a German prison has released one of the leading members of the second generation of the Red Army Faction terrorist group. Christian Klar was the second to the last RAF member still behind bars.

German authorities on Friday released Christian Klar from prison after he served 26 years for playing a role in several murders in the 1970s and '80s. Klar was the second to the last member of the German terrorist organization Red Army Faction (RAF) still behind bars.

Out of jail: Former RAF terrorist Christian Klar

Out of jail: Former RAF terrorist Christian Klar

News of the 56-year-old's imminent release had been circulating for weeks and a debate had even broken out over whether he should be permitted to take an internship after his release at the Berliner Ensemble theater. Established by Bertoldt Brecht, the theater had offered him training as a stage technician. Klar had been serving his sentence at a prison in the city of Bruchsal in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg.

At the end of November, the upper district court in Stuttgart ruled that Klar must be released from prison by Jan. 3, 2009, after serving the minimum necessary of his two life sentences. In their ruling, the judges said they believed Klar no longer represented a danger to society.

Klar had been a member of the second generation of Germany's notorious RAF terrorist organization, created by militant communists Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof out of the student and Vietnam War protest movement of the late 1960s. It sought to overthrow the capitalist establishment, which it thought had been infiltrated by former Nazis. Most of the founding members of the group, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, committed suicide in prison, but a second and third generation continued with a series of politically motivated murders and terrorist acts including the hijacking of a Lufthansa plane in what become the country's greatest crisis in post-war history.

In 1985, Klar was convicted to a sentence of life in prison for the murders of nine people. In 1992, he was sentenced to life in prison again for the bloody 1979 robbery of a Zürich bank.

The decision to release Klar has been massively controversial and sparked a fierce public debate. The ex-terrorist has never expressed any regret for his actions and he has not revealed any details of the crimes he committed. Just one year ago, German President Horst Köhler rejected Klar's request for clemency.

Klar was convicted of a series of political killings that included the slaying of German Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback, Dresdener Bank chief Jürgen Ponto and the influential head of the German Employers' Association, Hanns-Martin Schleyer, during the RAF's bloody heyday. By the time it officially disbanded in the late 1990s, the RAF had been responsible for killing 34 people, largely members of the West German financial and political elite. Recently, the group became the subject of the motion picture "The Baader-Meinhof Complex," which has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and has been submitted as Germany's official candidate for the Oscar for best foreign film.

The only RAF terrorist who remains in prison is Birgit Hogefeld, who has been incarcerated since 1993. Germany's Federal Court of Justice upheld her life sentence for the murder of an American soldier and a bomb attack on a US Airbase in Frankfurt in 1985. The court ruled that she would not automatically be eligible for parole after her minimum life sentence of 15 years. President Köhler also rejected her clemency request in May 2007.

In February 2007, the Stuttgart court moved to release Klar's RAF accomplice Brigitte Mohnhaupt from prison after serving 24 years. She was given a new identity.

dsl -- with wire reports


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