Protests erupted across Germany after the Dresden regional court in Germany sentenced the anti-fascist activist Lina E. and three others for several alleged militant actions against fascists and for forming a criminal organization. Lina E. was sentenced to five years and three months in prison. The other accused anti-fascists, Lennart A, Jannis R and Jonathan M, received sentences between 27 months and 39 months imprisonment.
28-year-old female German student Lina E. and three accomplices have been accused of being guilty of carrying out a spurt of attacks on members of Germany’s neo-Nazi scene, in one of the most sensational trials of a group of militant leftists since the days of the Baader-Meinhof group.
The trial known as the Antifa-East trial, which begun in September 2021, has been one of the most intense political trials in Germany in the last decades. Lina was arrested the 5th of November 2020 and within jail walls for almost 2 and a half years.
Three co-accused men aged between 28 and 37 were given sentences ranging from two years and five months to three years and three months, over either membership of or support for a criminal organisation.
At least five more members of the anti-neo-Nazi network, including Lina E’s partner, are assumed to be operating underground, with a report by Germany’s criminal police office attributing the group showed compactness last seen in the days of the Red Army Faction.
Known as the Baader-Meinhof group, the Red Army Faction was a militant leftwing urban guerrilla network that carried out explosives attacks and assassinations in western Germany from 1970 to the early 90s. Many of its members have since vanished in thin air and evaded trial.
The charge sheet against Lina E and her accomplices listed six violent attacks in the eastern states of Thuringia and Saxony between August 2018 and the summer of 2020 that injured 13 people, two of them in a life-threatening manner.
The victims comprised mainly rightwing extremists. Leon R, a barkeeper who was charged earlier this month with forming a rightwing extremist outfit, was attacked with hammers, clubs and pepper spray at his bar in the town of Eisenach in late 2019.
In at least one case the victim’s ideological affiliation seemed to have been misunderstood. Masked attackers beat up a 31-year-old in Leipzig’s Connewitz district in January 2019 because he wore a black hat by Greifvogel, a German clothing brand popular in rightwing extremist circles. In court, the man affirmed the hat as a gift from a friend and insisted that he had rejected the neo-Nazi scene he had belonged to as a teenager.
During the trial, which started in September 2021, Kassel-born Lina E became a most popular figure in German leftwing and anarchist circles. The graffitied slogan “Free Lina” is a regular sighting on buildings in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig.
Some of the group’s supporters in the gallery shouted “Fascist friends!” expressing their boiling indignation against the German justice system that has in the past given a leeway or pardoned rightwing militants’ crimes.
The judge himself seemed to acknowledge “deplorable” shortcomings in trials in which neo-Nazi supporters have been let off the hook, mildly. He described rightwing extremism as the greater danger to the country, but said even Nazis had unquestionable rights, however their reactionary ideology may be.
The defence lawyers have claimed that the trial was a politically motivated concoction. They accused the German state of paying a deaf ear to the crimes of fascists, while banging every nail in the wall to discover crimes of “left-extremists”. Only in 2022 there were 23,493 registered crimes committed by the “far right in view o German police,
Since the arrest, Lina has received escalating support from different anti-fascists. All over Germany the slogan “Free Lina” is a routine affair on walls, banners and clothing. When Lina and the other defendants entered the court room before her verdict was announced, around 100 people in the audience saluted her. When Lina was brought in the applause literally swept the audience, with the exception of the journalists. Protest outside of the courthouse in Dresden, with banners with the slogan “Free Lina”.
In addition to protests in Dresden, there have also been demonstrations against the verdict in engulfing many cities of Germany on Wednesday evening. Protests ignited in cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Leipzig, Cologne and Dresden.
In Leipzig around 800 people participated in a demonstration against the verdict. The participants attempted to penetrate the police barriers, and bottles, stones and pyrotechnics were flung against the police.
In Bremen several hundred people clustered spontaneously on the day of the verdict. The police claimed that the demonstrators attacked them “abruptly”. However, the police had immediately started rounding several dozen of demonstrators at the start of the demonstration. The police had also harassed a 12-year-old boy who had shown solidarity and the police prevented residents from giving food and drinks to the detained. The police attempted to intimidate the demonstration by making merciless arrests and pushing the demonstrators to retreat. This attempt was thwarted by demonstrators who relentlessly resisted the police. Slogans like “Freedom for all political prisoners!” and “The FRG is not our state, all power to the proletariat!” were shouted while the demonstrators relentlessly did not shake.
A banner in the demonstration had a quote of the Song of the International Brigades from the Spanish Civil War:
No mercy to the fascist rabble, no mercy to the dog who betrays us.
The right of assembly is defined in the German constitution, but the violated it and attacked people in the area of the demonstrations, including people who were just passing by.
The demonstration in Hamburg had 2.000 to 3.000 participants. After marching only a few meters the police attacked the demonstration. The police attempted this repeatedly, but had to retreat due to the pressure of demonstrators. Halfway through the march it was found that the police were preparing a trap. The organizers of the demonstration handled this by officially disembarking it and telling the participants to retreat in the other direction. The police, antagonised d by the situation, started making arrests and tried to break the unity of the retreating demonstrators. The demonstrators retaliated encircled the police squad and drove them away. Later when the police tried to clear the area, around 100 anti-fascists converged.. The demonstrators shouted slogans, sparked pyrotechnics and constructed barricades while the police chased them until late in the evening.
In Cologne, around 80 to 100 participated in the demonstration, who threw pyrotechnics.
Several hundred people participated in the demonstration in Berlin. Also here it is reported to have been resistance against the police.
Hatsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has studied Liberation Movements. Owes gratitude to inputs from Red Herald, DemVolke dienen, and The Guardian.