Neo-Nazi terror group ‘Chemnitz Revolution’ handed jail terms

Eight members of a neo-Nazi cell were jailed Tuesday after a German court found them guilty of forming a "terrorist organisation" that was planning a campaign of violence.

Neo-Nazi terror group 'Chemnitz Revolution' handed jail terms
Photo: DPA

The higher regional court in Dresden sentenced the accused, aged between 22 and 32, to prison terms ranging from two years and three months to five and a half years for the ringleader of the group that called itself “Revolution Chemnitz”.

The trial, which lasted six months, was closely watched in Germany where concern has been growing over an increasingly militant far-right scene.

A racist gunman shot dead nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the western city of Hanau last month, stunning the country and prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to urge Germans to resist the “poison” of xenophobia and hatred.

The eight jailed on Tuesday were part of the hooligan, neo-Nazi and skinhead scene in and around the city of Chemnitz in Saxony state, in Germany's former communist East.

They banded together in an online chat group in September 2018, shortly after the murder of a German man by a Syrian sparked anti-migrant street riots in Chemnitz.

The court heard how the ringleader, electrician Christian Keilberg, asked the other seven to sign up to a manifesto in the chat group, that called for perceived enemies to be targeted through armed violence.

The text said the group's aim was to make the National Socialist Underground or NSU “look like a kindergarten group” –  a reference to a neo-Nazi extremist group uncovered in 2011 that murdered 10 people and planted
three bombs.

During the trial, defence lawyers argued unsuccessfully that their clients had either not fully understood the manifesto or didn't take it seriously.

READ ALSO: Germany arrests six alleged right-wing terrorists

'Planning a bloodbath'

Five of the defendants carried out a first attack on September 14, 2018 “armed with glass bottles, weighted knuckle gloves, and an electroshock appliance” that hurt several foreign residents in Chemnitz, prosecutors said.

The violence was believed to have been a “test run” for a larger attack on October 3rd, the day Germany celebrates reunification.

Judges in Dresden found the five who took part in the assault guilty of serious breaches of the peace.

Prosecutors said the group wanted to upend German society through “violent attacks and armed assaults” against immigrants, political opponents, reporters and members of the economic establishment.

Authorities at the time said they believed the group's members were trying to acquire semi-automatic weapons for a planned bloodbath on Germany's National Unity Day.

Most of the men were arrested on October 1, 2018 while Keilberg was picked up two weeks later.

Speaking in Berlin, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said the trial had again highlighted “the danger posed by right-wing extremist terror groups” in Germany, driven by “hatred and contempt for democracy”.

The security services and prosecutors would continue to work together to “hold the perpetrators accountable”, she added.

By Michelle Fitzpatrick

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Anti-Semitism ‘massive problem’ in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary

On the second anniversary of a far-right terror attack at a German synagogue, the German Jewish Council has warned that the government needs to make more efforts to stop the spread of anti-Semitism online.

Anti-Semitism 'massive problem' in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary
A star of David on the roof of the Halle synagogue. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Two years after a terrorist attack in the east German town of Halle that left two people dead, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, said that more needed to be done in the fight against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

“The spread and incitement of hate, for example in the form of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories via social media, is a massive problem,” Schuster told DPA.

On October 9th 2019, a heavily armed right-wing extremist called Stephan Balliet tried to enter the Halle city synagogue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

When he failed to do so, he shot a 40-year-old passerby. He later killed a 20-year-old man at a kebab shop. While trying to escape, the 28-year-old injured several people before he was caught by the police.

The city of Halle is commemorating the event on Saturday, with wreaths to be laid at the scene of the crime. Reiner Haseloff, state leader of Saxony-Anhalt, is expected to attend.

Balliet was sentenced to life in prison in 2020 by the Naumburg Higher Regional Court. His sentence will be followed by preventive detention.

Funs for synagogue security

While praising the German government for introducing a law that makes social media companies responsible for hateful content posted on their sites, Schuster said that the legislation needed to be extended to messenger services such as Telegram.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the internet is not a lawless space,” he said.

According to Schuster, the German government reacted quickly after the Halle attack by providing money to improve security at Jewish institutions.

This was an important step, he said. “However, there is still much to be done at the political and social level to combat growing anti-Semitism.”

SEE ALSO: Four held over foiled ‘Islamist’ attack on German synagogue