Fischer Details
Defendant's Past In Testimony

Joschka Fischer,
German Foreign Minister
Green Party

F.A.Z. FRANKFURT. Under the protective watch of the police force he once fought, Foreign Minister Joseph Fischer went into a court on Tuesday to stand up for an old friend and defend his own sometimes violent past.

Mr. Fischer's appearance here followed weeks of intensive media coverage of his radical days, with a series of photographs depicting his 1973 beating of a police officer appearing in major publications and on television. To provide security for the trial, Frankfurt police deployed 150 officers, blocked a number of streets and had a helicopter flying overhead.

The appearance attracted many ordinary citizens, some of whom stood in an icy wind for hours to secure a seat in the courtroom.

During his two hours of testimony, Mr. Fischer drew a line between the political militancy he practiced and the armed violence that his friend, Hans-Joachim Klein, took up. Armed attacks "are too much," he said.

The two men knew each other from the Frankfurt radical scene during the 1970s. Mr. Klein, 52, is charged with three murders during the 1975 attack by left-wing terrorists on a conference of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna. Mr. Klein was captured in France in 1998 after 23 years on the run and extradited to Germany, where he is being tried as a German citizen.

Mr. Fischer was called by the court to help the judges determine why Mr. Klein drifted into terrorism. The testimony could be used to help set a sentence if Mr. Klein is convicted. Judge Heinrich Gehrke opened Tuesday's testimony by issuing two directions to Mr. Fischer. Mr. Gehrke told the foreign minister, who goes by the name of Joschka, to identify himself by his full name, Joseph Martin. And the judge told him to avoid talking "in shorthand," the political jargon used at the time.

With those instructions completed, Mr. Fischer talked about Mr. Klein. But the subject soon turned to the foreign minister's past.

"We all liked him," Mr. Fischer said of Mr. Klein.

But the foreign minister acknowledged that the two had been members of the "Cleaning Brigade," which he said planned to violently defend houses that had been illegally occupied by people who opposed real-estate speculators. "We were revolutionaries," he said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Fischer expressed dismay about the direction Mr. Klein's life took. Mr. Fischer, referring to a photo he saw of the defendant after the OPEC attack, recalled asking himself: "How did he get caught up in that?"

The questions soon focused on the violence in Mr. Fischer's own past, which political opponents refuse to dismiss as a youthful indiscretion.

As part of the questioning, the court showed pictures in which Mr. Fischer and others beat the police officer in 1973. Mr. Fischer confirmed that he was one of the attackers. He said his memory of the incident was so vivid because he had decided for the first time to defend himself against the officers instead of simply running away.

He also recalled Easter Monday of 1968. He said that he and his wife were out for a walk that day when police officers descended on them and "beat us black and blue, even though we had not done one single thing."

The violence of those years, he said, must be put in the "context of the situation." Many young Germans were worried that important elements of the Nazi system continued to exist in the political and social structure of West Germany. Later, Mr. Fischer said he swore off violence in 1977 when he realized that terrorists were speaking "the language of Buchenwald and Auschwitz."

His testimony done, Mr. Fischer shook hands with Mr. Klein and left the well-protected courthouse. Jan. 16, 2001


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