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Planned Parole Review for Notorious German Terrorists Causes Uproar

January 3, 1992

BERLIN (AP) _ With memories of leftist terrorist attacks still fresh, many Germans are infuriated by plans for a parole review of seven members of the Red Army Faction, which targeted business and NATO sites in the 1970s and ’80s.

While the attacks have tapered off in recent years, some officials warn that freeing the jailed terrorists could encourage more violence.

Johannes Gerster, a prominent member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, said the release could show ″the government is subject to blackmail.″

The seven Red Army Faction members considered for parole are serving sentences ranging from eight years to life. Four have been in prison since the 1970s, including Bernhard Roessner, part of a commando unit that stormed the West German Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1975.

The Stern news magazine said three of the inmates are ill and could be the first released.

Stern also reported Irmgard Moeller, convicted for the 1972 bombing of the U.S. Army headquarters in Heidelberg that killed three people, might also be considered for release, bringing the total to eight. But the prosecutors’ office in Heidelberg says no such parole review is planned.

German officials are still hunting between 10 and 15 ″hard-core″ members of the Red Army Faction. There are another 200 supporters.

The group still can strike with deadly precision.

The latest victim: Detlev Rohwedder, head of the agency selling off former East Germany’s crumbling businesses. He was gunned down in his home in Duesseldorf in April. His killers have not been caught.

Heribert Hellenbroich, the former head of West Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, said paroling the terrorists could lead to further attacks.

Finance Minister Theo Waigel has demanded top-level political talks before anyone is freed.

The debate reached such a fever pitch that the chief federal prosecutor on Friday appealed for calm. Alexander von Stahl said the imprisoned terrorists had just as much right to a parole review as ordinary criminals.

Von Stahl said German courts would decide based on several factors, including whether the inmates will not commit further crimes.

The terrorists must also have served at least two-thirds of their sentences, or 15 years in the case of life terms.

Rolf Hannich, a spokesman for the chief federal prosecutors, says the Rohwedder murder shows that the group ″still is capable of committing the most serious crimes.″

″Hopes that the RAF in Germany could be destroyed just like the Red Brigades in Italy and the Direct Action in France have not been fulfilled,″ the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported Thursday.

A similar dispute arose nearly three years ago, when then President Richard von Weizsaecker pardoned leftist terrorist Angelika Speitel. She had been serving a life sentence for killing one police officer and seriously injuring another in a September 1978 shootout.

Conservatives bitterly opposed the pardon, even though Ms. Speitel had renounced her Red Army Faction allegiance.

Other prominent victims of the Red Army Faction include Alfred Herrhausen, the head of Deutsche Bank, the country’s largest commercial financial institution. He was killed in a bomb blast Nov. 30, 1989, shortly after the Berlin Wall opened.

The news magazine Der Spiegel said the terrorists had murdered at least 12 prominent Germans from 1974 to 1991. Police officers and others also have been killed in the attacks.

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