No Amnesty for Now: RAF Terrorist Klar to Remain in Jail

Crime, punishment and forgiveness are recurring themes in German 20th century history. With the first two behind him, Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorist Christian Klar learned this week that he'll have to wait a while longer for the third.

Klar's home.
AP

Klar's home.

Birgit Keller, victim of a Red Army Faction (RAF) hostage taking in 1977, was concerned last month that her former abductor Christian Klar was about to go free. Speculation abounded that German President Horst Köhler was about to grant Klar amnesty. Keller wrote an open letter addressed to Köhler asking him not to let Klar go.

On Thursday, his letter in reply was printed in Germany's mass-circulation tabloid Bild Zeitung. And it looks like Klar is going to have to wait a little longer for his freedom. Köhler wrote that, given the "many factors that have to be taken into consideration," a decision could not be expected in the foreseeable future.

Klar's fate has been the focus of considerable attention in Germany in recent weeks. A Stuttgart court recently granted his RAF comrade Birgit Mohnhaupt parole after 24 years in the clink. But whereas she was up for parole, Klar still has to serve two more years before he can be let out. For a earlier release, he would have to be granted amnesty by the German President's office.

Klar himself recently made it much more difficult for Köhler to do just that. He sent a letter from jail to a recent conference in Berlin, hosted by the Marxist newspaper Junge Welt. In the letter, read aloud at the conference, he claimed that Europe was being ruled by an "imperial pact" and that society must purge its "chauvinistic" forces if it is achieve the "final defeat of capital."

While he made no call to violence, his message was heavily criticized in the German media, prompting Klar to call the media as "block wardens" -- a reference to Nazi neighborhood spies during the Third Reich.

In a recent interview with the German daily Die Welt, Köhler said, "I believe in forgiveness, from a Christian perspective, for one. But forgiveness demands regret. Mr. Klar could demonstrate regret by helping with investigations, by providing details." Klar, though, has refused to co-operate with German authorities investigating un-solved RAF crimes, and has never made a public statement of regret.

Klar, 54, was one of the leading members of the RAF, a communist guerrilla group that emerged from the 1968 student protest movement and was committed to combating "capitalist imperialism" and rooting former Nazis out of what it considered to be morally corrupt West German society. Found guilty on nine counts of murder and 11 counts of attempted murder, Klar has served 24 years of a 26 year jail sentence.

A total of 34 people were killed by the RAF, mainly members of the West German financial and political establishment. Its activity culminated in the fall of 1977, with the kidnapping and murder of the President of the German Employers Association Hanns-Martin Schleyer, in which Klar was involved. As the 30th anniversary of the so-called "German autumn" approaches, discussions of forgiveness and repentance have been revived.

It's suspected that Köhler will make a final decision on Klar after this anniversary has passed and emotion is not running quite so high.

dp/ap/reuters

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