West Germany's first official report on the prison deaths of three Baader-Meinhof terrorists reaffirmed yesterday that they had committed suicide in their prison cells last week.
The finding raised the possibility that the terrorists, who were found dead in their cells in Stuttgart's Stammheim prison, hoped their deaths would look like murders and make them martyrs to Europe's extreme leftist movement.
For a week, West Germany has been plagued by questions stemming from the three deaths Oct. 18 in what had been billed as a maximum security prison. How did they die? Who provided them with weapons? How did they hear about the successful West German commando raid that freed 36 hostages aboard a Lufthansa jetliner in Somalia, crushing their hopes of freedom through an exchange demanded by the hijackers.
Yesterday's official report was largely based on an autopsy witnessed by a representative of Amnesty international and several specialists invited from abroad. It did not clarify how the terrorists obtained the weapons they allegedly used to kill themselves.
But the autopsy findings have led some specialists to conclude that the terrorists stage-managed their deaths in an effort designed to tarnish the government's triumph in freeing the hostages at Mogadishu.
Evidence compiled thus far suggests that the government's claims of tight security at Stammheim prison were largely fiction.
Without preseting positive evidence, members of the investigative panel yesterday expressed suspicions that defense attorneys assisted in smuggling pistols and other tools to their clients.
Items discovered in the maximum security cellblock, following the three deaths, included a camera, transistor radio, an ingeniously simple wire communication system between cells, and half a pound of explosive.
The official 40-page report conceded that some of events that took place on the seventh floor of Stammheim in the early hours of Oct. 18 remain a mystery.
There were no fingerprints on the pistols from which Andreas Baader and aJn-Carl Raspe were killed, nor on the knife with which Irmgard Moeller was wounded.
All the weapons were smeared with blood, the report said. Gudrum Ensslin was found hanging from the bar across her window, the cord of her record player knotted around her throat.
The barrel of the pistol in Raspe's cell was bought in Basel, Switzerland, along with an American-made carbine later found on another West German terrorist according to the report.
While Baader died of a bullet wound in the back of his head, the autopsy finding of gunpowder traces on his right hand suggested to some observers a calculated attempt to launch his own myth.
According to this view, the terrorists decided on their desperate actions following the Mogadishu raid.
The three had no intention of serving their life sentences, yet it had become clear that the West German government would not yield to any future demands by their supporters that they be exchanged for hijacked hostages.
The report does not analyze the hypothesis that the terrorists, in an outburst of rage against the German government, staged what they hoped would look like their "murders."
Its conclusion, however, is that no third party was to be blamed for the deaths of Baader, Ensslin and Raspe, or for the alleged suicide attempt by moeller.
Moeller, found with stab wounds in her chest, has already said through her lawyer that her wounds were not self-inflicted and that she had no intentions of committing suicide. She also denied a suicide plot by the four.
About 90 witnesses were heard during the investigation. Helmut Engler, an official of the state justice ministry, said yesterday that the defense attorneys in all probability handed the pistols and other objects to their clients during visits to the prison.
He acknowledged that on "several occasions, objects were discovered which they intended to smuggle to their clients, such as ammunition and printed matter."
A search of lawyer Armin Neweria had produced some electrical wiring hidden in his documents, the report said. Newerla has since been arrested under suspicion of being a member of a criminal gang.
The investigation also established that although the terrorists were supposed to be under maximum surveillance, the search of their cells was an empty formality.
On the day of the death of the three, radios and earphones were found in the Frankfurt cell of two suspected terrorists. In a West Berlin jail, officials discovered a small radio in the cell of another jailed terrorist.
Despite the stringent security precautions now in effect throughout Germany, left-wing terrorists were reported by officials yesterday to have beamed threats against the government over secret short-wave transmitter.
One broadcast late Sunday exhorted listeners to "destroy the police stations, destroy banks and savings institutions, city halls and other bureaucractic institutions."
Explosions yesterday damaged several cars and ripped up three German show rooms in Rome.
Yesterday's report did not determine the exact time of the deaths of the three terrorists. It said Raspe probably heard a news report about the Magadishu raid on his transistor radio, which was concealed in his cell. He then informed the other gang members over a Secret communication link.