Four anti-fascists sentenced to years in prison in Germany

Featured image: The defendants awaiting the start of their trial in Dresden. Source: Jens Schlueter/Agence France-Presse

On Wednesday the Dresden regional court in Germany convicted the anti-fascist Lina E. and three others for several alleged militant attacks against fascists and for forming a criminal organization. Lina E. was sentenced to five years and three months in prison. The other accused anti-fascists, Lennart A, Jannis R and Jonathan M, received sentences between 27 months and 39 months imprisonment.

The trial known as the Antifa-East trial, which has lasted since September 2021, has been one of the most high-profile political trials in Germany in the last decades. Lina was arrested the 5th of November 2020 and have been in jail for almost 2 and a half years.

Since the arrest, Lina has received growing support from different anti-fascist. All over Germany the slogan “Free Lina” have been seen on walls, banners and clothing. When Lina and the other defendants entered the court room before her verdict was announced, they were met with applause from around 100 people in the audience. According to reports from media, when Lina was brought in the applause grew stronger and almost the whole audience were standing up, with the exception of the journalists.

Protest outside of the courthouse in Dresden, with banners with the slogan “Free Lina”. Source: Jens Schlueter/Agence France-Presse

In addition to protests in Dresden, there has also been demonstrations against the verdict in several cities in Germany on Wednesday evening. There were at least protests in cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Leipzig, Cologne and Dresden.

In Leipzig around 800 people participated in a demonstration against the verdict, according to numbers from the police. Reports from media tells that the participants tried to break through police barriers, and that bottles, stones and pyrotechnics were thrown against the police.

In Bremen it is reported that several hundred people gathered spontaneously on the day of the verdict. The police claimed that the demonstrators attacked them “abruptly”. However, the police had immediately started tying up several dozen of demonstrators at the start of the demonstration. The police had also harassed a 12-year-old boy who had shown solidarity, and the police forbade residents from giving food and drinks to the detained. The police attempted to stop the demonstration by tackling participants, making brutal arrests and pushing the demonstrators back. This attempt failed as a large part of the demonstrators resisted the police. Slogans like “Freedom for all political prisoners!” and “The FRG is not our state, all power to the proletariat!” were shouted while the demonstrators held their ground for hours. A video from media shows some clips of the later hours of the demonstration.

A banner in the demonstration had a quote of the Song of the International Brigades from the Spanish Civil War: “No mercy to the fascist rabble, no mercy to the dog who betrays us!”, together with the symbol of the newly founded Roter Bund (Red League).

Banner with the symbol of Roter Bund (Red League) in the demonstration in Bremen. Source: Dem Volke Dienen.

The right of assembly is defined in the German constitution, but the police still made arrests and harassed people in the area of the demonstrations, including people who were just passing by.

The demonstration in Hamburg is reported to have had 2.000 to 3.000 participants. Roter Bund participated in the demonstration with the same banner as in Bremen. After marching only a few meters the police started stopping and harassing the demonstration. The police attempted this again and again, but had to back down due to the large amount of demonstrators. Halfway through the march it was discovered that the police were preparing a trap. The organizers of the demonstration responded to this by officially dissolving it and telling the participants to retreat in the other direction. The police, overwhelmed by the situation, started making arrests and tried to split the retreating demonstrators. Garbage cans were set on fire and firecrackers were thrown on the police. The demonstrators fought back and surrounded the police squad and drove them away. When police reinforcements came they started beating the demonstrators and tried to make more arrests, but the participants continued resisting.

Demonstration against the Antifa-East verdict in Hamburg, Wednesday, 31st of May. Source: Dem Volke Dienen.

Later when the police tried to clear the area, around 100 anti-fascists formed a spontaneous demonstration. The demonstrators shouted slogans, ignited pyrotechnics and made barricades while the police chased them until late in the evening.

In Cologne, around 80 to 100 participated in the demonstration, according to reports from German media. The participants resisted the police and threw pyrotechnics.

Several hundred people participated in the demonstration in Berlin. Also here it is reported to have been resistance against the police.

A large demonstration has been called for in Leipzig on Saturday, referred to as “Day X”. It has been announced that for each year of prison that Lina is sentenced to there will be property damage of one million euro. There has also been organized joint travel to the demonstration in Leipzig from Berlin, Cologne and Dresden. After a campaign of several weeks by the German State and media against this demonstration, the demonstration was declared banned by the city of Leipzig. Several websites and users on social media have condemned the ban, and the participation is still expected to be significant.

Graffiti calling for the “Day X” demonstration with the slogan “Free Lina”. Source: Jan Woitas/dpa

The actions the anti-fascist are convicted for have been relatively advanced. According to the german police they have shown a level of professionalism “last seen in the days of the RAF [Red Army Faction]”. The anti-fascist are convicted for carrying out six different militant actions.

In October 2018, five hooded men are said to have attacked a fascist in Wurzen. The fascist was choked and beaten up with telescopic batons and fists and he was jumped on.

In January 2019, a man who was wearing a hat often used by fascist was attacked in Leipzig-Connewitz.

In October 2019, a restaurant owned by the fascist Leon Ringl was attacked by around a dozen people. The owner and five guests were hit by batons.

In December of the same year the anti-fascists are said to have followed Leon Ringl to his apartment, where they again attacked him and three of his companions with sticks, a hammer and a wheel wrench. After the attack, two cars were stopped by the police. The cars were using stolen license plates.

In February 2020, six Nazis were beaten up by up to 20 people with batons. The anti-fascists are said to have followed the fascist on the train, after they had participated in a march to commemorate the bombing of Dresden during the Second World War. The Nazis were said to have had potentially life-threatening injuries.

The last of the alleged actions took place in June 2020. The anti-fascist are said to have been scouting the home of a fascist when they were arrested by the police. They were released after a few days but Lina was again arrested on the 5th of November, after the federal prosecutor took over the case.

Hendrik Hansen, a professor at the Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences in Germany, and specialist in extremism stated the following regarding the actions: “This was a whole group of people planning attacks so minutely that they were using the appropriate technology, like disposable mobile phones. They had scouts, who spied on the victims. The tasks within the group were very precisely divided up.”

The defense lawyers have claimed that the trial was politically motivated. The German state is accused of ignoring the crimes of fascist, while they strive to find crimes of “left-extremists”. Only in 2022 there were 23,493 registered crimes committed by the “far right”, according to the German police.

The “star witness” of the German State is the alleged rapist Johannes D. He was formerly a part of the autonomous scene in Leipzig until he was publicly outed as a rapist in October 2021. According to supporters of the convicted anti-fascists, Johannes D. moved to Warsaw after the allegations and was later recruited as a witness for the trial, giving a detailed testimony of around 140 pages. It is believed that he did this as revenge, to get a reduced sentence and to get into witness protection to protect himself after he received threats because of the rape allegations.

The lack of credibility of this witness was shown when he in his own trial contradicted his previous testimony. Among other things he had claimed that a sports event in 2019 was scenario training for attacking political opponents. However in his own trial he claimed that this event was only “sport, fun, and social contact”. This alleged combat training was a key piece of evidence for the allegations of the anti-fascists forming a criminal organization.

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