DRESDEN, Germany (AFP) — Eight members of a German far-right group were sentenced to jail Wednesday on terrorism and attempted murder charges for a series of explosives attacks targeting refugees and anti-fascist activists.
Based in Germany’s ex-communist east, the so-called “Freital group” had sought to create “a climate of fear” at the height of Germany’s refugee and migrant influx in 2015, the court was told.
Its leaders Timo Schulz and Patrick Festing were sentenced to 10 and nine-and-a-half years of prison respectively. The other six received custodial terms of between four and eight-and-a-half years.
The seven men and one woman, now aged between 20 and 40, modified pyrotechnics they had bought in the neighboring Czech Republic for five explosives attacks.
One Syrian refugee was injured in a blast, and prosecutors argued that the group had casually accepted the risk of more victims and possible deaths in their attacks.
The Freital group is named after the members’ hometown, which drew notoriety beyond German borders in 2015 when enraged protesters there railed against “criminal foreigners” and “asylum-seeking pigs.”
Nearby Dresden, capital of the eastern state of Saxony, was the birthplace of the anti-Islamic street movement Pegida, which has ties with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) that has since entered Germany’s parliament.
The trial was held under tight security in a temporary courtroom complex with on-site holding cells located in a former refugee accommodation center on the outskirts of Dresden.
The eight accused were found guilty of five attacks with explosives between July and November 2015 — two on Freital refugee homes, two on an office and a car of far-left Die Linke politicians, and one on a Dresden communal residential complex.
A Syrian refugee suffered “multiple cuts” to the face when three explosive devices were hurled through the windows of a refugee housing center on the night of October 31.
On the final day of hearings in February, Festing, a pizza delivery and warehouse worker, had apologized to the victims without however clearly distancing himself from far-right and racist ideology, reported regional newspaper Saechsische Zeitung.
“I am sorry,” he said. “I can’t explain why I did it.”
Schulz, a bus driver, was previously handed a one-year suspended jail sentence for a baseball bat attack on the car of pro-refugee activists.