Using new DNA evidence, police have arrested a former German leftist terrorist on suspicion of involvement in the 1977 murder of West Germany’s federal prosecutor and two other people, authorities said today.
Federal prosecutors said in a statement that Verena Becker, now 57, was arrested at her Berlin apartment yesterday. Becker a former member of the leftwing Red Army Faction, or RAF, who was pardoned by the nation’s president in 1989 is now believed to have played a role in the fatal ambush on prosecutor Siegfried Buback, prosecutors said.
“The attack, which (also) claimed the life of Buback’s driver, Wolfgang Goebel, and the guard Georg Wurster was part of the RAF’s series of assaults know as ‘Offensive 77′ that a core group of RAF members planned in 1977,” prosecutors said. “Verena Becker, who belonged to this group, is believed to have made considerable contributions to the planning and carrying out of the 7 April 1977 attack.”
Becker was arrested a month after the ambush, following a shootout with police. Prosecutors at the time did not have enough evidence to try her on charges of involvement in the Buback killing, but convicted her of armed robbery and attempted murder stemming from the shootout. She was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1989 she was pardoned of those charges by German President Richard von Weizsaecker and released from prison.
Three other Red Army Faction terrorists were convicted of involvement in the Buback killing. It still remains unclear who fired the gun, but prosecutors said today they do not believe it was Becker.
A new investigation into Buback’s assassination was opened this year based in part on new evidence generated using DNA samples technology that did not exist in the 1970s including a sample linking Becker to a letter from the RAF sent on the day of the attack. “Such forensic techniques have only recently become possible,” the prosecutors’ office said.
On the basis of the DNA evidence, Becker’s apartment was searched on 20 August and authorities “confiscated documents whose contents, together with the other evidence already collected” provided enough for the arrest, prosecutors said. They said they would not release further details because the investigation was still ongoing.
German law is based on the principle of rehabilitation, and it is very common for convicted murderers to serve less than 20 years for life sentences. She was one of several other former Red Army Faction members to have been released.
The Red Army Faction grew out of Germany’s 1968 student movement, banding together two years later in reaction to what its members saw as complacency among West Germany’s first post-second world war generation and an overly capitalistic society. The RAF killed 34 people and injured hundreds before the group formally disbanded in 1998.