German court hands long jail sentences to far-right terrorists


Defendants of the the far-right group "Gruppe Freital" wait for their verdict in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany, 7 March 2018.

Defendants of the the far-right group "Gruppe Freital" wait for their verdict in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany, 7 March 2018.

DRESDEN - A German court sentenced seven men and one woman to four to 10 years in jail on Wednesday for founding a far-right terrorist group responsible for attempted murder and bomb attacks on refugee shelters and politicians in the former Communist East.

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The individuals were members of the "Freital Group", named after their base in the state of Saxony, a bastion of support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which won the most votes there in a 24 September federal election.

After a year-long trial, Dresden&39;s high court sentenced seven members of the group to between five and 10 years behind bars. The eighth got a youth sentence of four years, a spokeswoman said.

At least some of the defendants have appeared in court covering their faces with hoodies during their trial.

Prosecutors accused the group of being driven by xenophobic, radical right-wing views and a Nazi ideology, and of wanting to create a climate of fear that would drive out foreigners.

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The charges against them included belonging to a terrorist organisation, attempted murder, setting off explosives, grievous bodily harm, attempted grievous bodily harm and damage to property.

In one of the attacks cited by prosecutors, the suspects detonated explosives next to windows at a refugee shelter, knowing there were people inside. One resident suffered cuts but prosecutors argued it was luck that no one was seriously hurt or even killed.

The suspects also set off explosives on a car belonging to a local politician from the radical Left party.

The prosecutors say the group targeted refugees, aid workers and leftist politicians and acquired in the Czech Republic large quantities of explosives that are illegal in Germany.

The defendants have confessed to their roles in the individual crimes but their lawyer had rejected the accusation of being part of a terrorist group and of attempted murder.

The group&39;s attacks were part of a wave of right-wing violence against refugees triggered by the arrival of more than 1 million migrants in Germany since 2014.