Germany opens trial of far-right ‘terrorist’ group

Twelve alleged far-right conspirators went on trial on Tuesday, suspected of planning attacks on politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims as part of a plot to overthrow Germany’s democracy.

Eleven of the men, arrested in February last year, stand accused of membership in a terrorist organisation and weapons law violations. The 12th has been charged with supporting a terrorist group.

The suspects, known as Gruppe S (Group S), planned to spark “a civil-war-like situation… via as yet undefined attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and people of Muslim faith,” according to German federal prosecutors.

The group’s eight founding members had the goal of “destabilising and ultimately overthrowing” Germany’s democratic order, they said. 

In order to plan their attacks, the group allegedly held regular meetings which were coordinated and organised by two of the main suspects, named only as Werner S. and Tony E.

The suspects, all of whom are German citizens, also communicated using messenger apps.

The trial in Stuttgart comes amid growing concerns in Germany over the rise of violent right-wing extremism. 

The number of crimes committed by far-right suspects in Germany jumped to its highest level for at least four years in 2020, according to provisional police figures released in February.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has declared far-right extremism the “biggest security threat” facing Europe’s largest economy.

A series of high profile cases also rattled the country.

In January, German neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst was sentenced to life in prison for murdering pro-migration politician Walter Luebcke.

In February 2020, a far-right extremist killed 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to enter a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

The Gruppe S trial is taking place under high security at Stammheim Prison in Stuttgart and is due to wrap up in August.