Eight members of the German far-right terror cell known as the Freital Group were found guilty Wednesday for a 2015 bombing campaign targeting refugees and their advocates.
Seven men and one woman were found guilty on charges including forming a terror group and attempted murder. Judges hearing the case in the East German city of Dresden said there was no doubt the group had been motivated by their extremist political views to carry out the five bombing attacks from July to November 2015.
The group’s ringleaders, 29-year-old bus driver Timo Schulz, and 26-year-old pizza delivery man Patrick Festing, were handed the heaviest sentences, receiving 10 and nine ½ years in jail respectively. The other offenders were given sentences of between four and eight ½ years.
The attacks, targeting refugees, left-wing politicians and a left-wing communal housing complex, resulted only in non-fatal injuries to their victims. But prosecutors argued that the group understood their actions could have been deadly.
The group formed in 2015 amid a fierce protest movement opposing refugees being accommodated in the Saxon town during the height of Europe’s refugee crisis. Its members were involved in both the protests, and an associated “citizen’s patrol” group to police the behavior of the refugees, before launching a covert terror campaign using modified pyrotechnics bought in neighboring Czech Republic.
Their defense did not contend that the attacks never took place, but argued, unsuccessfully, that the bombings had been spontaneous, rather than the actions of a politically-motivated terrorist group.
The group’s first victim, the left-wing politician Michael Richter, told VICE News that he had been forced to leave Freital in the aftermath of the bombings, due to continuing harassment from the group’s sympathizers and fears he could be targeted again. Most of the refugees who were accommodated in the town during the group’s bombing campaign have since left too.
Cover image: Defendant Mike S. arrives at a courtroom in Dresden, Germany, March 7, 2017, at the start of a trial against the far-right group "Gruppe Freital". REUTERS/Sebastian Kahnert/Pool.