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Germany begins trial of 12 far-right ‘terrorist’ conspirators

Suspects, known as Gruppe S, allegedly planned to spark ‘a civil-war-like situation’; number of crimes committed by far-right suspects in Germany in 2020 was highest in 4 years

Picture taken June 18, 2019, shows people attending a protest rally in Berlin, Germany, against far right violence. Slogan reads 'Stop Far Right Violence' (Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP)
Picture taken June 18, 2019, shows people attending a protest rally in Berlin, Germany, against far right violence. Slogan reads 'Stop Far Right Violence' (Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP)

STUTTGART, Germany — 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 organization 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 “destabilizing and ultimately overthrowing” Germany’s democratic order, they said.

Illustrative — A man participates in a demonstration of the German far-right party ‘Die Rechte’ in Ingelheim, Germany, April 20, 2019. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

In order to plan their attacks, the group allegedly held regular meetings that were coordinated and organized 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.

Illustrative: Far-right groups protest in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, September 7, 2018, after several nationalist groups called for marches protesting the killing of a German man allegedly by migrants from Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

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.

Stephan Balliet (C), who shot dead two people after an attempt to storm a synagogue in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany,  arrives for the start of the 26th day of the trial on December 21, 2020 at the district court in Magdeburg, eastern Germany (Ronny Hartmann / AFP)

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.

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