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Probe into former West Berlin cop's Stasi past opened

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Probe into former West Berlin cop's Stasi past opened
Photo: DPA
14:08 CEST+02:00
Amid calls for a fresh investigation, Berlin's interior senator Ehrhart Körting has opened a probe into the Stasi past of a former West Berlin police officer who infamously shot a student protester in 1967.

Speaking in the interior committee of the Berlin parliament on Monday, Körting said he had ordered authorities to reassess Karl-Heinz Kurras' pension claims and examine his documents at the Office for Stasi Files (BStU).

The authorities “should check to see what proof the Office for Stasi Files has” and what “consequences it could lead to,” Körting said.

On June 1, 1967, Kurras, a West Berlin police officer, shot dead 26-year-old student Benno Ohnesorg during a violent anti-Iran demonstration in front of the German Opera House in Berlin's Charlottenburg district. The killing made Ohnesorg a martyr and fuelled explosive leftist student protests against what they saw as a repressive state in the following years.

The circumstances of the incident have remained vague through the years. Kurras, now 81 and living in Berlin's Spandau district, has been twice acquitted of negligent homicide in Ohnesorg's death, once soon after the shooting in 1967 and again in 1970.

But last week, new evidence emerged showing that Kurras had worked as a spy for former Communist East Germany's secret police – the Stasi.

The Office for Stasi Files in Berlin claims that Kurras may have been an unofficial agent for the Stasi beginning in the mid-1950s. He allegedly committed to spy on the West German police for the Stasi as an unofficial informant or IM under the pseudonym Otto Bohl. Further documents also show he was a member of the East German socialist party.

Over the weekend, several politicians called for a fresh investigation of the Kurras case in light of the new information.

Former German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, said the new Stasi revelations meant the case had to be "politically and legally re-evaluated."

"The files require a very precise re-examination," he said.

The chairman of the interior committee in the Berlin Parliament, Peter Trapp, called for a comprehensive investigation into the possible Stasi past of West German police.

Trapp said it was “unsatisfactory” that former West Berlin police officers had not been examined for a possible Stasi past after reunification in 1990.

“Those who were active as underground agents have to be revealed,” Trapp said.

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