German militants’ lawyer and Greens gadfly dies at 83

Hans-Christian Stroebele, a German lawyer who defended members of the far-left Red Army Faction and later became the Green party’s first directly elected constituency lawmaker, has died. He was 83.

German news agency dpa quoted his attorney, Johannes Eisenberg, saying Wednesday that Stroebele died on Aug. 29 after a long illness.

Stroebele, the son of a jurist and a chemist, first rose to prominence in 1970 as one of three lawyers acting for members of the RAF militant group — also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang — that carried out numerous politically motivated attacks whose targets included U.S. troops in Germany. Fellow lawyer Horst Mahler later swung to the far right, while another, Otto Schily, became Germany’s top security official.

Stroebele helped found the Berlin section of the Greens, a party that would stir up German politics from the 1980s onward.

While the Greens have since moved firmly into the center-ground, joining a coalition government under Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder from 1998 to 2005 and current Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-way alliance, Stroebele remained a gadfly on the left-wing of the party, opposing Germany’s military involvement abroad and campaigning against U.S. bases in Germany.

In 2002, he campaigned for a parliamentary seat in Berlin by targeting the Greens’ moderate leadership, and won the party’s first constituency majority in the capital’s left-leaning Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. Previously all Greens lawmakers had won their mandates under Germany’s system of allocating roughly half of all seats, according to proportional representation.

In 2013, Stroebele sought to gain safe passage for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to travel to Berlin from his exile in Moscow to testify before a parliamentary inquiry into U.S. intelligence eavesdropping in Germany. The German government refused to grant Snowden political asylum, however.

Scholz paid tribute to Stroebele on Wednesday, saying he was “driven to engage in politics that would change society.”

“With Christian Stroebele, Germany loses a pugnacious politician who helped shape the political debate for decades,” the German leader said.

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