Eight members of a neo-Nazi cell were jailed on Tuesday after a German court found them guilty of forming a “terrorist organization” that was planning a campaign of violence.
The higher regional court in Dresden sentenced the accused, aged between 22 and 32, to prison terms ranging from two years and three months to five-and-a-half years for the ringleader of the group that called itself “Revolution Chemnitz.”
The trial, which lasted six months, was closely watched in Germany where concern has been growing over an increasingly militant far-right scene.
A racist gunman shot dead nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the city of Hanau last month, stunning the country and prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to urge Germans to resist the “poison” of xenophobia and hatred.
The eight jailed were part of the hooligan, neo-Nazi and skinhead scene in and around the city of Chemnitz in Saxony state, in Germany’s former communist East.
They banded together in an online chat group in September 2018, shortly after the murder of a German man by a Syrian sparked anti-migrant street riots in Chemnitz.
The court heard how the ringleader, electrician Christian Keilberg, asked the other seven to sign up to a manifesto in the chat group, that called for perceived enemies to be targeted through armed violence.
The text said that the group’s aim was to make the National Socialist Underground “look like a kindergarten group” — a reference to a neo-Nazi extremist group uncovered in 2011 that murdered 10 people and planted three bombs.
During the trial, defense lawyers argued that their clients had either not fully understood the manifesto or did not take it seriously.
Five of the defendants carried out a first attack on Sept. 14, 2018, “armed with glass bottles, weighted knuckle gloves and an electroshock appliance” that hurt several foreign residents in Chemnitz, prosecutors said.
The violence was believed to have been a “test run” for a larger attack on Oct. 3, 2018, the day Germany celebrates reunification.
Judges in Dresden found the five who took part in the assault guilty of serious breaches of the peace.
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