BERLIN — German authorities on Monday pardoned and released a former terrorist convicted of killing three people in a 1975 attack on an OPEC oil ministers' meeting.
A Frankfurt court in 2001 convicted Hans-Joachim Klein of three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder and hostage-taking after a trial in which German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer -- a friend of Klein's from their student radical days 30 years ago -- appeared as a witness.
Klein was sentenced to nine years in prison. He admitted participating in the Dec. 21, 1975, attack on the Vienna headquarters of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries but denied shooting anyone.
The attack allegedly was led by Carlos the Jackal, the Venezuelan terrorist whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez. The victims were an OPEC employee, an Iraqi bodyguard and an Austrian policeman.
The Hesse state justice ministry said its decision to pardon Klein followed clemency requests by "several citizens" whom it did not identify. A ministry statement gave no further details.
Klein, who belonged to the extremist Revolutionary Cells group, renounced terrorism in a 1977 German magazine interview but remained on the run until police captured him in 1998 in a French village, where he lived under an assumed name.
Klein would have been eligible for parole in May after serving two-thirds of his term. He was placed in a work-release program in September.
Klein said during his trial that he met Sanchez through the Revolutionary Cells, one of several terrorist groups that tried to destabilize Germany in the 1970s with violent attacks.