March 26, 2007


Germany rattled by militant's release: Unrepentant convicted killer Brigitte Mohnhaupt walks free, setting off a debate over whether everyone really does deserve a second chance. (Jeffrey Fleishman, March 26, 2007, LA Times)

A recent poll...found that 66% of Germans believed the militants should serve their full life sentences. Known to most of the country from her wanted poster, which showed a broad-faced woman with light hair and thick mascara, Mohnhaupt today is at the center of a debate over a legal system rooted in European liberalism that prides itself on tolerance and compassion. Her case also has revealed that vestiges of extreme leftist politics still resonate among certain intellectuals who never realized their anarchist dreams.

"The people are against releasing Mohnhaupt and Klar," said Gabriele von Lutzau, who was a flight attendant on a Lufthansa jet hijacked by RAF-inspired Palestinian militants in 1977. "The RAF wanted to free the masses, but the masses wanted them thrown into the dungeon and the key tossed away. How many people do you have to kill before they don't let you walk free?"

The RAF went through several incarnations between 1968 and its disbanding three decades later. It was a violent spinoff of a student movement that demanded Germany account for its Nazi past, denounce capitalism and oppose U.S. power. Public support for the RAF evaporated quickly in the face of the group's bombings and kidnappings, which unnerved a divided nation that was rebuilding from World War II and navigating the dangerous politics of the Cold War.

The terrorists turned the country into a film noir landscape where TV news carried images of bullet casings and blanket-draped bodies. It was a time that also foreshadowed a new generation of politicians, including Joschka Fischer, a cabdriver- turned-street protester who would become Germany's foreign minister, and Gerhard Schroeder, a young lawyer who represented an RAF member and would be elected chancellor in 1998.

Mohnhaupt and Klar surfaced as two of the RAF's main leaders in the mid-1970s. During their tenure, the group stormed the West German Embassy in Sweden, tried to forge bonds with other European extremists and killed several leading German citizens, including federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback and banker Juergen Ponto, whom Mohnhaupt and Klar shot at least five times after delivering flowers to his home.

Neither Mohnhaupt nor Klar has offered public apologies or given details about the RAF's inner workings or which members carried out certain killings. Nor was Mohnhaupt required to apologize under the terms of her release.

Their reticence has left criminal cases unresolved, including bombings and attacks on U.S. bases in Germany. Furor and bewilderment concerning the imprisoned terrorists' fate intensified in January when a letter in which Klar called for the overthrow of capitalism was read at a political conference.

"Considering the gravity of this wrongdoing," Gunther Beckstein, the conservative interior minister of Bavaria state, said of Mohnhaupt's crimes, "I can't imagine that the victims and those affected will consider it justice when a criminal like this walks around in freedom."

The center-left newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote that the case underscores the wisdom of German law: "The state remained a state of justice; it didn't become a state of revenge. The decisions to release prisoners from jail, these acts of humanity ordered by the state, show the strength of this state far more impressively than any tightening of laws."

In German terms, the injustice lies in how much longer they were improsoned than the Munich massacre crew.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 26, 2007 10:42 AM

I hope she's on the persona non grata list to get into this country.

Posted by: erp at March 26, 2007 11:42 AM

Three words: Boudin, Ayers, Dohrn.

And what does it say about us that the latter two are college professors?

Posted by: Rick T. at March 26, 2007 12:09 PM

This wouldn't happen if they had death penalty.

Posted by: ic at March 26, 2007 12:21 PM

"RAF" Troubling Germany? "Red Army Faction," I suppose. If my Uncle John were alive he would have gotten a chuckle out of that one--He spent WWII troubling Germany in the REAL RAF, as a bomber aircrewman.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 26, 2007 1:51 PM