More than 900 people, including West Germany's chancellor and president, attended a funeral in Frankfurt today for slain bank president Juergen Ponto, and heard Bonn's economic minister warn that the killing brought an additional dimension to terrorism in this country.
Speaking at the nationally televised funeral ceremony, Economics Minister Hans Friderichs pointed out that unlike judges or law enforcement officials who had been previously been victims of terrorist assassins, Ponto was a private citizen, not a symbol of the state or judicary.
So why was the 53-year-old chief of Germany's second-largest commercial bank slain in his home last week by a band of extremists? Friderichs asked.
The banker had been deliberately picked out as a target, Friderichs said, because he was "a symbol" of a free enterprisr economic system that extremists "hate . . . and want to destroy."
The killing of someone outside the government law enforcement establishment for the first time is the new dimension Friderichs cited.
The prospect that anybody in private business or other sectors could become a terrorist target for murder or kidnaping has greatly increased the concern of German security forces. It has also produced new demands for tougher laws and bigger police forces. The same demands were raised fourt months ago after the slaying of Slegried Buback, chief federal prosecutor.
Friderichs said today that the state must increase security measures generally, but he reminded his audience that blanket protection of all prominent people in and out of government is impossible.
Furthermore, Friderichs warned "the state has the responsibility not only to prevent crime and vilence, but to protect freedom."
He cautioned against an overreaction that would play into the hands of terrorists. We should fight terrorism with all means but not only with policemen. We should fight also with a spiritual and philosophical attitude that does not nourish violence and terror," Friderichs said.
Police are stil hunting for three or four women, including Susanne Albreacht, 26-year-old prime suspect, and one man in the killing.
A group calling itself "Red Morning" hs claimed responsibility for the slaying.This group was previously unknown as an organization, contributing to fears that terrorist group may be increasing.
Monday police arrested a 23-year-old student, Eleonore Maria Poensgen, on charges of taking part in the attack. She was subsequently "positively identified" by Ponto's widow and the caretaker of the family home.
The suspect, however, has claimed repeatedly that she was nowhere near the home, and today her lawyers presented 15 persons at a press conference in Frankfurt who supported her alibi that she was on her way to a party.
The suspect remains in custody. However, if it turns out that police arrested the wrong person who was then wrongly identified by the widow and caretaker, it could not only prove embarassing to the police but could greatly complicate testimony by these two key witnesses at a future trial if the actual killers are caught.