Far-left extremist jail term sparks uproar in German politics

A far-left extremist, Lina E, has been handed a five-year and three-month jail sentence for her involvement in violent attacks on neo-Nazis, sparking controversy among German politicians. Lina E, who has been in custody since 2020, was also granted temporary freedom pending an appeal, causing further uproar. Three men convicted alongside her were given jail sentences as well. Left-wing protesters demonstrated against the verdicts in several cities, while others were angered by Lina E’s release, believing it sends a message that violence against the extreme right is acceptable.

The judge, Hans Schlüter-Staats, said Lina E would be allowed out pending the result of her appeal due to her poor health. She has had to surrender her identity card and passport. Schlüter-Staats stated that “opposing right-wing extremists is a respectable motive” but emphasised that the use of force is reserved for the state, and her actions were still “serious criminal acts”. He criticised her defence lawyers’ argument that the case was politically motivated.

Lina E was considered the ringleader of her far-left group, which carried out a brutal campaign of violence against the extreme right for several years, using hammers, iron bars, and baseball bats. In one incident in 2019, the group attacked a well-known neo-Nazi pub called the Bull’s Eye in Eisenach, beating its owner, Leon R. He was later arrested in a police operation targeting neo-Nazis across Germany.

The far-left militant group gained notoriety for its violence, earning the nickname “hammer gang”. Lina E’s partner, Johann G, is also suspected of attacks and has since gone underground. In another incident in 2020, a group was beaten up as they returned from a ceremony marking the firebombing of Dresden during World War Two. Several victims suffered serious injuries. Lina E was detained in November 2020. Three men who joined her gang were given sentences of 27 to 39 months in jail.

Sabine Volk, a researcher on far-right groups from the University of Passau, said that the crimes committed by the gang were terrible but that there appeared to be a “power imbalance” in eastern Germany against the far left. “In radical left circles, there’s this perception and narrative that the state isn’t doing anything against the neo-Nazi scene and that’s why they have to take over their duties,” she told the BBC. “It’s not entirely true but it’s not far-fetched either.”

Last December, 25 people were arrested on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the German government on behalf of the far-right Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement. Following Lina E’s conviction, far-left protests occurred in several cities, with police targeted with bottles and fireworks. Jochen Kopelke, head of the police union, said officers were shaking their heads that she had been released: “It was clear to us as officers that we would also be the focus of extremists.”

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has warned of an increasing willingness among the far-left to resort to violence. However, she said last week that right-wing extremism remained the biggest radical threat to German democracy and that attacks last year rose by 12%. An anti-fascist “Day X” march planned for Saturday has been banned in Leipzig, where Lina E was a student, due to concerns over potential violence. Nevertheless, a major police operation is planned as several significant events are scheduled to take place in the city.

The far-right AfD party condemned the decision to release Lina E as “soft and cosy” and complained there had been a failure of the rule of law. The AfD has risen in German opinion polls in recent months, with the latest poll putting them neck and neck with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD on 18%. The AfD has also benefitted from a backlash among German voters from climate activist protests that have blockaded streets in key cities.

Hans-Georg Maassen, a former German spy chief who is seen as a right-wing conservative, ridiculed Lina E’s sentence as giving free rein to far-left activists to stage further violent attacks.

World News

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Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.