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Germany: Terrorist Arrest Provokes Political Questions

Munich, 11 September (RFE/RL) -- Three days ago (Sept. 8) Hans-Joachim Klein, a former German terrorist sought on charges arising from murder and kidnapping cases in the 1970s, was arrested in France. Germany immediately requested the extradition.

Yesterday, members of the German opposition claimed in a parliamentary debate in Bonn that Klein had been arrested to provide a spectacular success for the Government just two weeks before the federal elections on September 27. They claimed Klein's whereabouts had been known for a long time and that, in any case, he was preparing to surrender of his own free will next Wednesday morning (September 16).

The Government acknowledged discussions with Klein's lawyer since July on a voluntary surrender. Moreover, Justice ministry officials confirmed that German security officials had several contacts with Klein himself over the past ten years, including a face-to-face meeting as long ago as 1988 in Paris. Another meeting took place in 1993 in the offices of the French newspaper "Liberation".

Klein broke away from the terrorist movement in 1977 and afterwards provided police with a great deal of information about international terrorism.

Charges have also surfaced that the Government wanted to use the Klein case to discredit the leader of the Greens party, Joschka Fischer, who could have an important political role if the opposition wins the election. Fischer was an associate of Klein in the left-wing movement in Germany in the 1970's. Unlike Klein, he turned to parliamentary politics instead of terrorism.

The arrest of Klein brings back the almost-forgotten era in the 1970''s when left-wing groups supported by communist countries rampaged through Germany criticizing its political system. Several prominent Government and financial personalities were murdered.

Hans-Joachim Klein was one of the most prominent terrorists. He has been on Germany's "most wanted" list since 1975 when he was accused of having assisted the master terrorist "Carlos" in a spectacular attack on the international oil-producers association, OPEC, in Vienna. The attack cost three lives and Klein himself was wounded. The attackers were allowed to fly to Algeria and then disappeared.

Two years later, in 1977, Klein published a statement in German magazines, "disassociating" himself from Carlos and from terrorism.

German security disclosed several years ago that this led Carlos to order a manhunt to find the "traitor" and put him before a so-called revolutionary court.

After Klein's arrest in a French village this week, the authorities said he had lived in France for 18 years and had two children with his companion.

German television reports said he was well-regarded in the village where he had hidden under the name of "Dirk Clausen." He told inquirers he was a freelance journalist.

Two prominent German weeklies, "Stern" and "Der Spiegel" have interviewed him in recent years. Three years ago a German television company broadcast a long interview with him.

The critics claim that Germany's internal security service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, would have little trouble in locating Klein.

The police officials directly involved with Klein's arrest this week strongly deny that there were any political implications in the timing of his detention. The chief public prosecutor in Frankfurt, Hubert Harth, today acknowledged the discussions with Klein's German lawyer about a voluntary surrender next week but denied there was any firm agreement to allow him to do so. The Government prosecutor responsible for Klein's case, Volker Rath, also denied any political implications. According to Rath there was no agreement to suspend the warrant because of Klein's plans.

But Klein's lawyer, Eberhard Kempf, said today that he discussed the details of Klein's voluntary surrender with Rath last month.