Lina E. should be behind bars because she is held responsible for attacks on neo-Nazis. There is a surprise at the end of the verdict. There are still riots in the evening.
The Dresden Higher Regional Court has sentenced the alleged left-wing extremist Lina E. to five years and three months in prison for several attacks on right-wing extremists.
Nevertheless, the 28-year-old student is released after two and a half years in custody: the arrest warrant was suspended under certain conditions. She only has to serve the remaining sentence if the verdict is final – the court allowed an appeal.
Cheers from the supporters
Lina E.’s supporters erupted in cheers when the presiding judge, Hans Schlueter-Staats, announced the suspension of the arrest warrant on Wednesday evening. When the sentence was announced in the morning, the mood was completely different: they chanted chants, declared the presiding judge a “Fascho” friend and castigated the “fucking class justice system”. The verdict, which lasted more than nine hours, was interrupted several times due to minor riots.
The state security chamber imposed prison sentences of between two years and five months and three years and three months on Lina E.’s three co-accused. In the Chamber’s view, Lina E. 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 had to answer for dangerous bodily harm, the other for aiding and abetting.
Lina E.’s defense announced revision, the sentence was far too high, said defense attorney Ulrich von Klinggräff. “The parole was long overdue.”
Demonstrations in several cities
There were protests against the verdict in several cities on Wednesday evening. Several hundred demonstrators marched through Dresden, and there were also solidarity demos by sympathizers from the left-wing scene in Berlin and Hamburg. The police put the number of participants in the federal capital at around 500. The demonstration was largely peaceful, and there were also some scuffles, it said. Around 500 demonstrators also came together in Leipzig in the evening. The gathering ended around 9:40 p.m. after bottles and pyrotechnics were flown in the direction of police officers. The police also had to clear a barricade near the meeting place. Riots broke out in Bremen in the evening.
Nationwide demos had been called for next 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. It was unclear in the evening whether the lifting of the arrest warrant would help ease the situation.
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.
Two and a half years in custody
The fact that Lina E. has no criminal record and has been in custody for two and a half years not only mitigated the sentence. Schlüter-Staats also sees her personal rights violated by media reporting and spoke of prejudice. However, the court acknowledged the 28-year-old’s importance in the group, but “not a formative one in the sense of being a ringleader”.
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. He reported regular training for the attacks. 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.
Attack on sewer workers
In his preliminary remarks, Schlüter-Staats went into the most brutal act: In January 2019, a sewer worker who worked in Leipzig’s trendy Connewitz district and just “wore the wrong hat in the wrong place,” as Schlüter-Staats put it, was hit. Because the hat label is popular with right-wing extremists. The man suffered severe head injuries. The act shows where militant anti-fascism can lead, said the presiding judge.
Schlueter-Staats also dealt with the defense’s accusation that the procedure was a “political process” and even agreed. 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.”
The court also found the allegation of a criminal organization fulfilled. Not only the overarching purpose of the group and the ongoing commission of criminal offenses speak for this. There was also a minimum of consolidated organizational structures.
Supporters are appalled
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 thanked her family, lawyers and supporters. They also protested in court on graduation day. “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 outset, the defense had complained that the federal prosecutor’s office 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.
From the point of view of the federal prosecutor’s office, the verdict makes it clear that “there is no such thing as good political violence”. “The rule of law does not accept that individuals, because of a supposedly better ideology, take the law into their own hands and use violence against political dissidents,” said federal prosecutor Alexandra Geilhorn.
Experts fear the radicalization of the left scene
What is on the minds of security authorities now is not 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 vicinity of E. Some of them have gone into hiding.
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.