Solidarity with Sonja and Christian!
After 33 years in French exile, Sonja Suder, 79, and Christian Gauger, 70, were extradited to Germany on September 14, 2011. Christian was transported across the border in an ambulance! Sonja was jailed in Frankfurt-Preungesheim; Christian in a prison hospital. Christian, who suffered cardiac arrest in October of 1997 and has since been under constant medical and personal care, wasn’t released from detention until one month after his extradition; he now is forced to report to the cops twice per week. Sonja, who continues to be detained in Preungesheim, is likely the oldest woman in Europe awaiting trial in jail. Prosecutors brought charges in November and are planning to bring the cases to trial in 2012.
A Long Tradition of Resistance
As part of the political left, the Revolutionaere Zellen (Revolutionary Cells, RZ) started tackling the revolutionary perspective in the BRD in 1973, striving to identify novel formats of militancy and starting points for resistance. It formed a third urban guerilla group, next to RAF and Bewegung 2. Juni (2nd June Movement); however, RZ opted against a vanguard position, choosing to act from within the legal left movement instead. In the mid-1970s, RZ spawned a feminist organization, Rote Zora. RZ and Rote Zora ceased action in the early 1990s.
Sonja and Christian are charged with two of roughly a dozen anti-nuclear attacks conducted by RZ. The first, on August 22, 1977, was directed against the German MAN corporation and its aid in the development of South African nuclear bombs. MAN was selling compressors for an uranium enrichment plant to the racist Apartheid regime. The second attack, conducted shortly thereafter, was directed against the KSB corporation, then the world’s leading manufacturer of cooling circuit pumps for nuclear power plants. Sonja and Christian are also blamed for an RZ arson attack against Heidelberg castle on May 18, 1978. The goal of the attack was to illuminate the contradiction between the chic tourist façade of Heidelberg and the policy of razing entire sectors of town in the interest of profiteers.
Regarding all three charges, the prosecution relies on the so-called “testimony” of Hermann F., testimony fabricated under conditions akin to torture. In the summer of 1978, an explosive device purportedly destined for an RZ action against the consulate of Argentina’s military dictatorship in Munich, had detonated on Hermann’s knees, causing severe injuries. He survived, but lost his eyes, both legs and suffered severe burns. Under the influence of potent pain killers and sedatives, he was hospitalized and later brought to police barracks, where he was held under total isolation. State security officers, prosecutors and judges who took copious notes were his sole “persons of contact.” Hermann remained in a state of absolute helplessness and reduced perception for 18 weeks. Contacts with friends and a trusted lawyer were prevented and manipulated. When he finally escaped isolation, Hermann F. rejected his purported testimony as construed and not his own.
33 Years of Exile
In the fall of 1978, one year after the “German Autumn” and in the midst of a state hunt for radical leftists, Sonja and Christian notice that they are being followed. They travel abroad, to an unknown destination. It isn’t until later that they learn of the accusations raised against them.
In 2000, 22 years after their disappearance, Sonja and Christian are arrested in Paris. In the meantime, another charge has been added: After 24 years, government witness Hans Joachim Klein has suddenly claimed to remember that Sonja transported weapons to Vienna in 1975, for an attack by a Palestinian-German commando against the OPEC oil minister conference. (Klein participated in the attack, but soon took his distance from it and them; aided by German Greens and former leftists, and with the knowledge of the German secret service, he lived in France until 1999. After his politically forced arrest, followed by copious testimony, he was convicted in 2000 in Frankfurt, but soon released and pardoned. Frankfurt district court rejected Klein’s testimony against Sonja and others as not credible during his trial in 2000: and yet, his claims are still being repeated in the recent warrant and charges against her.)
Those German accusations notwithstanding, a French court rejected the German extradition request in 2000. After posting bail of a few hundred Euros, both were allowed to remain in France. But in 2007, prodded by the Paris representative of the German federal criminal police BKA, German prosecutors took advantage of recent changes in EU law to submit a “European” arrest warrant. Though the warrant contain no new information, simply representing a change in format, the French authorities under Sarkozy agree to it in 2010.
No Deal. No Testimony.
Sonja and Christian come from the Left of the 1960s and 1970s; they were fighting the systems of prison and repression back then. Ten years ago, they refused to take a deal offered by the German prosecution, which promised respite from custody and parole in exchange for their voluntary return to Germany and a confession. They have consistently refused to testify. Sonja said, in a 2010 interview: “If you have agreed beforehand, ‘should something happen, no word, no testimony,’ then you feel very secure.”
Their life demonstrates that it was and remains possible to live without a bourgeois career and without adapting to the ruling system. They are 1968ers that did not morph into Greens, opportunists or power-hungry politicians. Activists of the Left do not need to sacrifice their political and personal integrity to so-called practical constraints. Sonja and Christian’s extradition and trial have been so doggedly pursued for only one reason: because they refuse to cooperate with the state security apparatus.
The Real Crime
All political trials aim at redefining legitimate resistance as criminal acts. The real crime here, however, was arming a racist regime, not the militant resistance against it; the real crime was and is the destruction of livable and affordable neighborhoods, not the protest against gentrification; the real crime was and is the nuclear program, not anti-nuclear resistance.
While the BRD government keeps supporting nuclear exports of German firms, and while no corporation has been taken to task for its support of the Apartheid regime, Sonja and Christian are to be tried based on acts against those crimes after three decades. They weren’t imprisoned until EU law had been tightened to the detriment of refugees and asylum seekers.
Freedom and happiness for Sonja and Christian!
Their steadfast attitude despite Christian’s severe illness and despite three decades of exile deserves respect and international solidarity from all those who have resisted and are resisting prison, the state security justice system, the nuclear mafia, racism and gentrification. It is no coincidence that, on the occasion of Castor 2011 in the Wendland, banners and fliers underlined the long tradition of anti-nuclear resistance since the 1970s and called for solidarity with Sonja and Christian.
Sonja and Christian should receive international support – let’s make sure that they don’t feel extradited!