Germany tries woman in Baader-Meinhof murder

A German woman went on trial on Thursday for conspiring to murder the country`s top prosecutor during a campaign of terror by the extreme left Baader-Meinhof gang in the late 1970s.

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2010, 21:20 PM IST

Stammheim: A German woman went on trial on Thursday for conspiring to murder the country`s top prosecutor during a campaign of terror by the extreme left Baader-Meinhof gang in the late 1970s.

Verena Becker, 58, a former member of the murderous "anti-imperialist" outfit, appeared in court in Stammheim near Stuttgart in large sunglasses charged with involvement in the murder of Siegfried Buback.

Buback was killed along with two others when a still unidentified person on the back of a motorcycle sprayed his chauffeur-driven limousine with bullets on April 07, 1977, in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe.

Buback`s son believes the "petite woman" seen by witnesses on the back of the bike may have been Becker, but she is not accused of firing the fatal shots.

It was one of several operations carried out by the gang, also known to Germans as the Red Army Faction (RAF), in what became known as the "German Autumn," shaking 1970s West Germany to its core.

The urban guerrillas took up arms against what it considered an oppressive capitalist state still riddled with former Nazis, killing 34 people in the 1970s and 1980s in attacks on West Germany`s elite and US military bases.

In 1977, the Baader-Meinhof shot dead a German bank chief, kidnapped and killed industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer -- a former SS officer -- and commandos stormed a Lufthansa jet in Mogadishu hijacked by Palestinians who were allied to the Red Army Faction.

The same day, the gang`s jailed "first generation" of leaders, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe, were found dead in their cells.

The official story is that they committed suicide but conspiracy theorists maintain they were murdered.

"In November 1977, I didn`t have much trust in the stability of the nation," West Germany`s chancellor at the time, Helmut Schmidt, admitted in a 2008 newspaper interview.

Germany is now a peaceful country, marking this weekend 20 years since the reunification of West and East Germany. But Verena Becker represents a loose end from that traumatic era.

She was sentenced to life in prison in 1977 for other Baader-Meinhof activities, but pardoned and freed after 12 years. Her involvement in Buback`s death was never proved and the case was closed in 1980.

It was reopened in 2008 when police found traces of Becker`s DNA on a letter by the gang. She was arrested in 2009, released on bail in December and charged in April with conspiracy to murder.

Stammheim is being tried in the same place that she was convicted in 1977, not far from the prison where her former comrades-in-arms died.

If convicted, Becker in theory faces a life sentence, but in view of the time already served behind bars she would likely receive substantially less. A verdict is due at the end of December.

Bureau Report