Ex-Red Army Faction member charged with murder

BERLIN (AP) — German federal prosecutors have charged a former member of the leftist terrorist Red Army Faction with the 1977 murder of a West German federal prosecutor and two others for her role in one of the group's most notorious killings.

Verena Becker, 57, was charged with three counts of murder for her alleged role in the fatal ambush of then-West German federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, his driver and a bodyguard, prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday. The charges were filed on April 8, they said.

"She is suspected of playing a decisive role in the decision for the assassination, the planning and the preparation as well as spreading letters claiming responsibility" for the attack, prosecutors said.

Buback's driver, Wolfgang Goebl, and a bodyguard, Georg Wurster, also were killed in the attack.

An original investigation into Becker's role in the slaying, which took place during an especially bloody period of leftist violence in then-West Germany, known as the "German Autumn," was closed in 1980 because of a lack of evidence.

Becker had already been arrested in May 1977 and convicted of armed robbery and attempted murder stemming from a shootout with police that preceded her arrest. She was sentenced to life in prison, but pardoned in 1989 by then-President Richard von Weizsaecker and released.

In August authorities returned her to custody when they opened a fresh investigation into the Buback attack, but the Federal Court of Justice ruled in December it saw no danger that she would flee the country and released her again.

Becker remains free, despite the charges against her, a spokesman for federal prosecutors said.

In the indictment, prosecutors said that evidence generated using DNA samples had linked Becker to a letter claiming responsibility for the attack that was sent by the Red Army Faction on the day of the attack, showing her involvement in the slaying.

"The investigation shows, however, no evidence indicating that she was one of the two members of the ambush commando who rode on the motorcycle used in the slaying," the statement said.

Three other Red Army Faction terrorists were convicted of involvement in the Buback killing. It remains unclear who fired the gun.

The Red Army Faction emerged from German student protests against the Vietnam War, and launched a violent campaign against what members considered U.S. imperialism and capitalist oppression of workers.

The organization killed 34 people and injured hundreds. It declared itself disbanded in 1998 and has since become the stuff of myth, inspiring several movies and books. Several of the group's symbols, including its trademark machine gun and red star, have found their way into fashion items, from T-shirts to infant's bodysuits marked "Terrorist."