Harsh penalties and loud protests: Lina E. is to be behind bars for years because she is largely responsible for attacks on neo-Nazis. The question now is how the left scene deals with the verdict.
When the Dresden Higher Regional Court announced the sentence against Lina E. and three other left-wing violent criminals, the tension in the high-security room was palpable. And the anger of their supporters unleashed with force on Wednesday: they chanted chants, declared the presiding judge to be a “Fascho” friend and castigated the “fucking class justice system”. Hans Schlueter-Staats, who sentenced Lina E. to five years and three months in prison for several attacks on right-wing extremists, then interrupted the trial. When the judgment was reasoned, tempers calmed down – except for a little grumbling and complaining. For a short time, however, there is still tumult after a woman is expelled from the hall for trying to disrupt the room.
The State Protection Chamber imposed prison sentences of between two years and five months and three years and three months on Lina E.’s three co-accused. According to the Chamber, the 28-year-old student and a man of the same age are guilty of membership in a criminal organization; a 37-year-old and another 28-year-old for their support. E. and two of the men also have to answer for dangerous bodily harm, the other for aiding and abetting.
After the verdict, riots are now also feared at rallies. Demonstrations were planned in Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz on Wednesday evening, and nationwide calls are made for Saturday. Threats have surfaced on the Internet, according to which property damage of one million euros is to be caused for every year of imprisonment in Leipzig. The police are preparing for a large-scale operation.
Eight years imprisonment required
With the sentence imposed, the court stayed below the requests of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, which had attested to the defendants’ “militant left-wing extremist ideology”. She had demanded eight years in prison for the young woman from Kassel in Hesse, and between two years and nine months and three years and nine months for the three men.
However, the chamber does not assume that E. is the ringleader. She sees her as an “overview person” who has been involved in training and, as a member of the association, in preparing attacks on supporters of the right-wing scene since 2018. Schlüter-Staats justified E.’s “moderate punishment” with the fact that in her case there was a significant violation of personal rights.
The federal prosecutor accused the accused of brutally beating up actual or supposed supporters of the right-wing scene in Leipzig, Wurzen and Eisenach between 2018 and 2020. A key witness had incriminated her. According to the indictment, 13 people were injured, two of them potentially life-threatening. Another allegation was that the accused had rejected the democratic constitutional state as well as the state monopoly on the use of force.
Judge: “Serious crimes remain”
In his preliminary remarks, Schlüter-Staats went into the most brutal act: In January 2019, a sewer worker who was at work in Leipzig’s trendy Connewitz district, but “was wearing the wrong hat in the wrong place,” as Schlüter-Staats put it . Because the hat label is popular with right-wing extremists. The man suffered severe head injuries, including fractured skulls. The act shows where militant anti-fascism can lead, said the presiding judge.
Schlueter-Staats also dealt with the defense’s accusation that the proceedings were a “political process” and even agreed on two counts. The acts were committed out of a political motivation – the fight against fascism. Right-wing violence is currently the greatest danger in Germany. Opposing right-wing extremists is a “respectable motive”, but does not justify the accused cases. “Serious crimes remain.” On the other hand, the defense made the accused victims of an alleged “repressive state” with “propagandistic background music”.
Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) welcomed the verdict. “We must protect our liberal democracy from its enemies, but not with vigilante justice,” he wrote on Twitter. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) sees an increasing danger from left-wing extremists. “In left-wing extremist groups, inhibitions have fallen to attack political opponents with extreme brutality,” she said in reference to the verdict.
The process under high security precautions began in September 2021. Lina E. had already been in custody for ten months, but the three men were still at large. Apart from personal information, they remained silent on the allegations. Only E. took the chance at the “last word” and said “thank you” to her family, lawyers and supporters. They almost made a happening in front of the building with music and speeches, but with protest. “We are horrified, angry and still speechless,” said the mothers of the accused in a greeting read to several dozen participants in tents. They sharply criticized “the harshness with which left-wing structures are being persecuted,” while neo-Nazis were treated gently. “What a farce.”
From the start, the defense had complained that the GBA was taking over the investigation. That alone led to higher criminal charges, they argued in their pleadings, which were aimed at acquittals. They saw their clients exposed to prejudice and accused federal prosecutors of setting different standards for right-wing and left-wing criminals. The court was accused of being biased.
“Made many new friends”
What concerns security authorities is not first and foremost the immediate reaction to the verdict. Experts fear a radicalization of the left-wing scene and have seen evidence of this for a long time, for example in terms of action against “political opponents”. According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the inhibition threshold for using violence is falling more and more, and there is talk of a “worrying development”. It is no longer just about property damage, but about targeted attacks on people. Even their death is accepted.
Dirk Münster, head of the police counter-terrorism and extremism center at the State Criminal Police Office in Saxony, attaches great importance to the proceedings against Lina E. “Basically, we’ve only just started,” he recently told a newspaper. In fact, there are investigations into other people from the area around E. They cancel accounts, jobs and apartments and are now dependent on supporters. Lina E. and the three men can continue to rely on the solidarity of the scene, which was present on every day of the trial in Dresden, as their mothers assured: “We made many new friends in the process.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.