Alleged anti-refugee militants go on trial in Germany

Alleged supporters of a far-right militant group went on trial in Germany on Monday accused of taking part in attacks against officials, refugees and anti-fascist activists.

Alleged anti-refugee militants go on trial in Germany
The group went on trial in Dresden on Monday. Photo: DPA

As fears grow that the country's far-right scene is becoming more emboldened and violent, prosecutors said the four defendants were members or supporters of the “Freital group”.

Based in a town of the same name in Germany's ex-communist east, it had sought to create “a climate of fear” at the height of an influx of migrants to Germany in 2015, they told the regional superior court in Dresden.

Members are believed to have taken part in attacks that year on the car of a local councillor, the office of a leftist politician and a refugee shelter.

The trial of three men and a woman is scheduled to last until next year.

Two of the men, aged 27 and 53, are accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”.

The other two, both aged 31, face charges including being accessories of crimes carried out by the group, based in a town of the same name in Germany's ex-communist east.

The same court in March 2018 jailed eight members of the Freital group on terrorism and attempted murder charges. Prosecutors say the current group of defendants belong to a “second tier” of members.

READ ALSO: From the NSU to anti-Semitic attacks – how racist and far-right terror in Germany is rising

Resentment runs deep in Saxony state, a hotbed of far-right activity, over Merkel's liberal refugee policy that led to the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015.

While Merkel's stance at the time enjoyed broad support across much of the political spectrum, it has since been seized on by the far right to radicalise its supporters.

The latest trial comes just a year after the murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a neo-Nazi.

In October 2019, just months after Lübcke's death, Germany was rocked by a shooting at a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle that left two dead. The suspect later admitted to anti-Semitic and far-right motives.

And in February this year, another gunman shot dead nine people of migrant origin in the central town of Hanau.

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New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs

Germany's Defence Minister on Tuesday vowed to severely punish soldiers stationed in Lithuania who were accused of singing racist and anti-Semitic songs, if the allegations turned out to be true.

New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs
German soldiers training in Saxony-Anhalt in May. credit: dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

“Whatever happened is in no way acceptable,” said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Those implicated would be “vigorously prosecuted and punished”, she added.

The Spiegel Online news site had on Monday reported that German soldiers in Lithuania sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a party at a hotel in April.

One had also sought to sexually assault another soldier while he was asleep, a scene which was caught on film, said Spiegel.

According to Spiegel Online, the scenes took place at a party at which soldiers consumed large quantities of alcohol. They are also alleged to have arranged a “birthday table” for Adolf Hitler on April 20th and to have sung songs for him.

It is unclear to what extent more senior ranked soldiers were aware of the incidents.

Three soldiers have been removed from the contingent stationed in the Baltic country and an investigation is ongoing to identify other suspects, said the report.

The German armed forces have been repeatedly rocked by allegations of right-wing extremism within their ranks.

Kramp-Karrenbauer last year ordered the partial dissolution of the KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.

SEE ALSO: Germany to compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination