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CRIME

RAF’s Becker released from custody

Former Red Army Faction (RAF) member Verena Becker is once again free after being held for four months over her suspected involvement in the 1977 murder of West Germany’s Chief Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback.

RAF's Becker released from custody
Photo: DPA

The federal court in Karlsruhe ruled there was not enough evidence that she was directly involved in the killing and ordered her release from remand, though she remained under suspicion on three counts of abetting the murder.

Federal prosecutors said they would press fresh murder charges against Becker in the spring.

She had been arrested in August after prosecutors said they had found new DNA evidence linking her to the murder.

“At the current stage of the investigation, although the accused is not believed to have participated in committing the murder, she is strongly suspected of three counts of abetting murder,” the court said in a statement.

“(However) there is no compelling reason for her continued imprisonment on remand,” it said, adding that it saw no danger of her attempting to flee.

The court noted the 57-year-old had lived for nearly 20 years in her sister’s house in Berlin and had a ”stable existence.”

Becker is a former member of the ultra-leftist RAF – also known as the Baader Meinhof gang – which terrorised West Germany in the 1970s with a string of politically motivated murders. She has been on remand since the arrest.

But the court ordered that she be released, saying there was not sufficient evidence that she took part in the murder.

Prosecutors had claimed Becker made a “crucial contribution in the preparation and execution of the attack,” in which Buback, his driver Wolfgang Göbel and a judicial officer, Georg Wurster were killed.

A motorcycle pulled up to Buback’s Mercedes at a stoplight, and a passenger on the back opened fire with an automatic weapon.

Prosecutors had said Becker’s genetic material was found on several envelopes of letters claiming responsibility for the murders.

Buback’s son Michael said he was astonished that ”only abetting was now being talked about.” Like the prosecutors, he thought the evidence of her direct involvement was strong, he said.

Becker was released from jail some 20 years ago after serving several years for RAF-related crimes.

Former RAF members Christian Klar, Knut Folkerts, Günter Sonnenberg, Brigitte Mohnhaupt have all been convicted collectively of the Buback murder, but authorities remain unsure of who fired the deadly shots. Michael Buback, the son of the murdered prosecutor has repeatedly named Verena Becker as a possible suspect.

The Baader-Meinhof Gang, named after its founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, mounted a violent campaign against what it considered was the oppressive capitalist state of West Germany from 1977 to 1982.

It targeted the German elite and US military bases in Germany and is suspected of killing 34 people. The group officially disbanded in 1998.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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