Trial starts for Germans accused of refugee attacks

2017-03-07 21:21
One of the accused on trial in Dresden, Germany, for allegedly forming a far-right terrorist organisation enters the court. (Sebastian Kahnert, dpa via AP)

One of the accused on trial in Dresden, Germany, for allegedly forming a far-right terrorist organisation enters the court. (Sebastian Kahnert, dpa via AP)

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Dresden - Eight members of a German far-right group went on trial on Tuesday over terrorism charges, accused of a series of attacks against refugees and political opponents.

The so-called "Freital group" - named after the members' hometown outside Dresden, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony - consists of seven men, aged 19 to 39 and a 28-year-old woman.

Prosecutors say they staged five attacks with explosives between July and November 2015 targeting refugee housing and leftwing groups, causing two injuries.

Charges against them include forming a terrorist group, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.

Tight security

"They wanted to create a climate of fear and repression," federal prosecutor Joern Hauschild told the court.

"In at least one case, they accepted that people could die," he said.

Expecting a long trial, authorities spent €5m.3m fitting out a specially constructed courtroom, including on-site prison cells, in a structure on the outskirts of the city originally built to house refugees.

With anti-migrant sentiment high across the former communist East, the hearings were being held under tight security.

Dresden in particular has been a focal point for xenophobic groups as the home of the anti-Islam street movement Pegida.

And the neighbouring town of Freital was already making headlines in the summer of 2015, as images of rage-fuelled demonstrations against "criminal foreigners" and "asylum-seeking pigs" were beamed around the country.

It was the peak of the refugee crisis, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's September 4 decision to open Germany's borders to refugees and migrants travelling via Hungary and Austria.

Prosecutors say the defendants went to the Czech Republic and secured "a large quantity of explosives", planning to use them against refugee housing and the "homes, offices and vehicles" of local left-wingers.

Assistance organisation

The charge sheet includes an attack on a car belonging to the leader of far-left party Die Linke in Freital on the night of July 27 2015, in which no one was hurt.

After the charges were read out, the lawyer representing Maria Kleinert, the only female defendant, said his client "blamed herself" and "would, if she could, undo the acts".

There were about 3 500 attacks against refugees and asylum seekers in Germany in 2016 - 10 each day, on average - injuring 560 people including 43 children, interior ministry data show.

Saxony, with just 5% of the German population, was the scene of 437 attacks last year, according to the RAA, a victims' assistance organisation, after 477 in 2015.

Read more on:    germany  |  terrorism  |  refugees

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