Ex-Red Army Faction member on trial
Verena Becker, former member of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, appears in court over the killing of a German prosecutor.
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2010 17:25 GMT
Verena Becker is alleged to have participated in the killing of a top German prosecutor in 1977 [AFP]

A former member of the Red Army Faction has gone on trial in Germany for her alleged role in the murder of a federal prosecutor some 33 years ago.

Verena Becker, 58, appeared in the Stuttgart state court on Thursday, charged with participating in the 1977 shooting of Siegfried Buback, one of the most prominent victims of the left-wing urban guerrilla group.

The West German prosecutor was killed along with two others after two people on a motorcycle sprayed his chauffeur-driven car with bullets as it stopped at a traffic light in Karlsruhe.

Other members of the group - which was also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang - have previously been handed jail sentences for the murders, but authorities have never been able to determine who fired the shots.

DNA 'evidence'

Michael Buback, the prosecutor's son, said he is "99 per cent" sure that Becker killed his father, but prosecutors have said there is no evidence to suggest she fired the shots.

"We just want to know who is guilty. We only want to know the truth, the truth about this crime, which my father and his two companions fell victim to," he said outside the court.

Becker declined to respond to the charges as they were read out in court, and her defence lawyer said she was not ready to make any statements.

The former gang member was arrested two months after the murder on 7 April 1977 following a shoot out with police, and sentenced to life that year for six other killings.

She was freed in 1989 following a pardon from then president Richard von Weizsaecker.

However charges against her relating to the Buback killing were never proved, and were dropped in 1980 due to lack of evidence, and only re-opened again in 2008, when her DNA was found on a letter from the gang claiming responsibility for the murder.

Her trial is the last major court case of a Red Army Faction fighter.

Wave of killings

The killing was one of several operations carried out by the Red Army Faction, during the peak of its armed campaign against West Germany in the 1970s, dubbed the "German Autumn."

"The assassination of Siegfried Buback marked the start of the '77 offencive," prosecutor Walter Hemberger told the court as he read the charges on Thursday.

The group took up arms against what they considered an oppressive capitalist state still run by former Nazis, killing 34 people in attacks on West Germany's elite and US military bases before disbanding in 1998.

In 1977 they also shot dead a German bank chief and kidnapped and killed industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer - a former SS officer.

Soon afterwards, German commandos stormed a Lufthansa jet on the tarmac at Mogadishu airport that had been hijacked by Palestinians who were allied to the gang.

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.

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 not expected before late December.

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