Europe

Baader-Meinhof murder trial opens in Germany

Verena Becker - at her trial in Stuttgart, Germany - 30 September 2010
Image caption Verena Becker was a leading member of the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang

A former member of the radical far-left Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group has gone on trial in Germany over the 1977 murder of a federal prosecutor.

Verena Becker, 58, was arrested last year for her suspected role in the ambush of Siegfried Buback. Two men escorting him were also shot dead.

Police said there was DNA evidence implicating Ms Becker on a letter in which the RAF claimed responsibility.

The RAF, also called the Baader-Meinhof gang, killed more than 30 people.

The group broke up more than 10 years ago. At the height of their campaign against the West German elite and "US imperialism" in the 1970s and 80s they targeted bankers, businessmen, judges and US servicemen.

Bodyguards and drivers were also shot in the gang's attacks.

'New evidence'

The murder of Siegfried Buback, the country's leading public prosecutor, was one of their most notorious attacks.

The three victims were shot dead by a passenger on a motorcycle as their car stopped at traffic lights on the way to a Karlsruhe court.

Although Ms Becker was arrested the month after the Buback assassination, after a shoot-out with police, there was insufficient evidence at the time to convict her of his murder.

She was sentenced to life imprisonment for her involvement in six other murders, but was pardoned by then-President Richard von Weizsaecker in 1989 and released.

She was rearrested in August 2009 and charged earlier this year with conspiracy to murder after new forensic technology allegedly revealed traces of Ms Becker's DNA on a letter by the RAF sent claiming responsibility for the Buback attack.

She is not accused of firing the shots that killed Buback - that person has never been found.

Ms Becker, wearing a large pair of dark sunglasses, declined via her lawyer to respond to the charges at the court in Stuttgart, in southern Germany.

Speaking before the trial opened, Siegfried Buback's son Michael said: "We only want to know the truth, the truth about this crime, which my father and his two companions fell victim to. We have a very clear picture of what has happened, but this is not enough."

The trial is expected to continue until December. Ms Becker faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

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