Court jails ex-RAF member for 1977 murder

A former member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), which terrorised Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, was jailed for four years on Friday for accessory to the murder of a top official 35 years ago.

Court jails ex-RAF member for 1977 murder
Photo: DPA

Verena Becker was convicted for her role in the 1977 RAF murder of Siegfried Buback, then West Germany’s top prosecutor, and two others.

The court in the southern city of Stuttgart said two-and-a-half years she had already served of a previous sentence for membership of a terrorist organization would count in her favour. As a result, Becker may not return to prison.

The court may decide to commute the remaining time to a suspended sentence or, in the case of an appeal, allow Becker to remain free pending a final verdict.

Prosecutors had acknowledged that Becker was not directly involved in the killing, which was the RAF’s most high-profile attack, but claimed she was a major player in planning and implementing the murder. Who actually pulled the trigger remains a mystery.

Breaking her years-long silence on the charges, Becker, now 59, said in her testimony that she “was not there” at the crime scene.

She also denied helping to plan the attack in Karlsruhe. The attack marked the start of the “German Autumn,” or the peak of the gang’s reign of terror.

The RAF – also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang after its two leaders – took up arms against what it considered an oppressive capitalist state still infested with former Nazis, killing 34 people in attacks on West Germany’s elite and on US military bases before disbanding in 1998.

Siegfried Buback, a member of the Nazi party from 1940 to 1945, was killed on his way to work on April 7, 1977. As his Mercedes waited at a traffic light, a motorcycle pulled up next to him and the person on the back opened fire with an automatic weapon, killing Buback, his driver, and a court officer.

The case was closed in 1980, but was reopened in 2008 when Becker’s DNA was found on a letter from the gang claiming responsibility for Buback’s death. Her trial began in September 2010.

Becker had already been sentenced in 1977 to life in prison for being part of a criminal organization. She was released in 1989 after being pardoned by then-President Richard von Weizsäcker.

Michael Buback, the son of the murdered prosecutor, had not called for a specific punishment for Becker, though assumed that Becker pulled the trigger. Buback has said he is certain he knows what happened on April 7, 1977, and that Becker’s sentencing would therefore carryno meaning for him.

AFP/DAPD/The Local/mbw

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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.