Germany: Trial begins of right-wing extremists who used Czech fireworks to make bombs
On 7 March the trial began in Dresden under extraordinary security measures of eight right-wing extremists charged with carrying out a series of bomb attacks against their political opponents and refugees. The seven men and one woman, who also procured the material for their explosives in the Czech Republic, face many years in prison if convicted.
The so-called "Freital" group, named after the town near Dresden from which most of its members come, is considered a terrorist group by detectives, and their aim allegedly was to attack people who did not share their political convictions, as well as refugees, in order to intimidate them. Members of the group, which was created in July 2015, face charges of attempted murder and/or grievous bodily harm for five bomb attacks they allegedly perpetrated.
During the first attack at the end of July 2015, according to investigators, the group used explosives to destroy the automobile of a politician from the Left Party in Freital, while the second attack in September destroyed the window of the office of the local cell of that party. In October 2015 the group attacked an alternative accommodation facility in Dresden using butyric acid.
The other two attacks targeted asylum-seekers. In the early morning hours of 20 September and 1 November 2015, members of the group used explosives to attack apartments in Freital occupied by refugees.
During the November attack a 26-year-old Syrian man was injured by glass shards that struck his face. Shortly after that attack, police arrested three members of the group, and the activity of the remaining five was brought to an end five months later by an extensive special forces raid.
The defendants, who range in age from 19 to 39, face up to 10 years in prison for terrorist conspiracy and up to 15 years in prison for attempted murder. While the prosecution accuses the group of terrorism, alleging that they did their best to produce a pipe bomb, the defense objects that the crimes do not rise to that level, although it admits they did carry them out.
"This group did not aim to shake the state to its foundations or to absolutely overthrow the state system," claims defense attroney Rolf Franek. Making explosives from fireworks imported from the Czech Republic is, in his view, qualitatively different from, for example, the murderous deeds of the so-called Islamic State group.
German authorities have long banned the importation of fireworks from both the Czech Republic and Poland because they believe they are too dangerous. The closely-watched trial is also significant because an entirely new courtroom had to be built in Dresden for it.
None of the existing courtrooms corresponded to the requirements for holding the trial of a group of persons suspected of terrorism. In what is a bit of a paradox, part of a building in Dresden that originally was meant to serve as a residential hotel for refugees was ultimately transformed into a courtroom.
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