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Probe into former West Berlin cop’s Stasi past opened

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.

Probe into former West Berlin cop's Stasi past opened
Photo: DPA

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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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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