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The BBC's Peter Morgan
"For the German government Fischer's travails add to a growing sense of panic"
 real 56k

The BBC's Patrick Bartlett in Frankfurt
"Joschka Fischer was relaxed and sometimes humorous"
 real 28k

Astrid Proll, former member of Baader-Meinhof gang
"Germany saw much more student violence than people in England are used to"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Fischer recalls radical past
Joschka Fischer in court
Fischer said he was always opposed to violence
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has been giving evidence about a former radical colleague, who is on trial for murder - but said he himself always opposed armed struggle.


I didn't see where [violence] could lead other than self-destruction

Joschka Fischer
Mr Fischer - who appeared as a character witness in the trial of Hans Joachim Klein - said his former comrade did not show signs of leaning towards violence when they knew each other.

Mr Klein is on trial in Frankfurt for the murder of three people during an the attack on an Opec oil ministers' meeting in Vienna in 1975.

Mr Klein has described the German foreign minister as a role model, and the case has focused attention on Mr Fischer's background.

Photographs published recently show Mr Fischer beating a policeman at a 1973 demonstration, when he was 25.

At one point during the cross-examination of Mr Fischer, the judge reminded prosecution lawyers that he was not the man on trial.

"This is not about Herr Fischer, it is about Herr Klein," said Judge Gehrke.

Attack

Mr Klein does not deny his involvement in the 1975 attack, but he had pleaded not guilty to murder.

Hans-Joachim Klein
Hans-Joachim Klein: Former student radical
He was arrested in France in 1998, more than 20 years after the Vienna assault, which was led by the notorious Carlos the Jackal.

Mr Fischer was a leading figure of the German radical left in the early 1970s.

Giving evidence in court, he said Mr Klein was not obsessed with violence, as the prosecution maintained.

He said Mr Klein was emotional, rather than intellectual, and seemed to have personal problems.

"He had the image of someone who was not on the sunny side of life," said Mr Fischer.

As Mr Fischer gave evidence, Mr Klein sat expressionless next to his lawyers, with his arms crossed.

Resistance

In the 1970s, Mr Fischer took part in numerous, often violent demonstrations. He has never hidden his past, but in recent weeks old photographs have been unearthed showing him in street battles with the police.

Frankfurt court
The judge reminded the court that Fischer himself was not on trial
One photograph, in which Mr Fischer is seen in a motorcycle helmet hitting a policeman, has prompt calls for his resignation.

Mr Fischer denied in court that he had ever used weapons, and said he had opposed violence.

"I didn't see where it could lead other than self-destruction," he said.

He said his decision to attack the policeman had come after he had suffered earlier beatings at the hands of the police.

"I did not want to run away any more," he told the court.

Despite the controversy, Mr Fischer remains one of Germany's most popular politicians and has the continued support of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Only 16% of people surveyed by the German news magazine Der Spiegel last week wanted him to step down.

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See also:

09 Jan 01 | Europe
Schroeder backs foreign minister
17 Oct 00 | Europe
Jackal ally tried for Opec kidnap
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Germany
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