By Simona Block and Joerg Schurig, dpa
Dresden, Germany (dpa) – The accused in a high-profile trial of members of an alleged right-wing German terrorist cell are “openly national socialists” aiming to cause “systemic change in Germany,” the prosecution said on Monday as the trial began.
The eight accused from the “Revolution Chemnitz” group “intended to change the course of German history,” federal prosecutor Kai Lohse told the court as he read out the charge sheet.
The case has been described by Federal Public Prosecutor General Peter Frank as “one of the most significant proceedings in the area of right-wing terrorism.”
Earlier the court rejected an application from one of the accused’s lawyers for it to be held behind closed doors on the grounds that his client had been a legal minor at the time of the alleged offences.
Eight men aged 21 to 32 stand charged of forming and being members of a right-wing terrorist organization, with five of them facing additional charges of serious disturbance of the peace. One of them is charged with causing serious bodily harm.
Federal prosecutors accuse the men, all linked to neo-Nazi circles in the region of the eastern city of Chemnitz, of forming the organization through a chat group in September 2018.
The ringleader, the oldest of the accused, reached a decision to put an end to “anti-German machinations,” by targeting foreigners, Germans of foreign ancestry and those with differing political views.
Their aim was to use violence to change the system, with the starting date for their campaign set down for October 3 last year, on the national holiday celebrating German reunification in 1990.
They planned “targeted and effective blows against left-wingers and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel zombies,” along with armed attacks on groups identified as their opponents.
The group had procured firearms to this end and were prepared to accept the possibility that people would be killed, Lohse said.
One of those charged is accused of attacking a group of young people in Chemnitz on September 14, 2018, following a demonstration by the right-wing Pro Chemnitz extremist movement.
The investigating officers saw this as a “trial run” for future actions. Five of the accused were present in uniform, wearing so-called “weighted knuckle gloves” and carrying beer bottles.
They are alleged to have moved in on a group of Iranians and Pakistanis, shouting “Foreigners out!” One man was hit, and an Iranian struck by a beer bottle.
The 32-year-old ringleader was arrested on September 14 last year, while the others were detained on October 1. The ringleader has chosen to remain silent during questioning.
The trial is set to run to the end of April.
Chemnitz near the Czech border was the scene of violent right-wing protests in August and September last year following a stabbing at a city festival.
A Syrian national, who was convicted but has appealed, and an Iraqi man who remains at large are believed to have fatally stabbed a German man and severely injured another man on the sidelines of the festival.