Eight sentenced to jail for right-wing terror crimes in Germany - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Eight sentenced to jail for right-wing terror crimes in Germany

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One of the defendants arrives for the start of the trial in Dresden last March. One of the defendants arrives for the start of the trial in Dresden last March.
By Claudia Otto and Judith Vonberg CNN

DRESDEN, Germany (CNN) -- Eight people have been found guilty of being members of a right-wing terror organization by a court in Germany.

A federal court in Dresden handed down the verdict Wednesday after a yearlong trial of members of the so-called "Freital Group," a terror cell founded in eastern Germany in 2015 accused of firebombing two refugee homes and an office and car belonging to the left-wing, pro-immigration Die Linke party.

The seven men and one woman -- known only as Timo S., Patrick F., Philipp W., Justin S., Maria K., Mike S., Sebastian W. and Rico K. -- faced a number of charges including creating and being part of a right-wing terror group, grievous bodily harm, detonating explosives and attempted murder after allegedly carrying out five attacks using explosive devices.

Ringleader Timo S. was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while fellow leader Patrick F. received a sentence of nine years and six months. The others are also due to serve prison terms, the shortest being four years.

According to CNN affiliate ARD, prosecutor Jörn Hauschild had called for the defendants to be jailed for between five and 11 years.

Six of the eight were found guilty of attempted murder and two of aiding and abetting in attempted murder.

Anti-immigrant sentiment runs high in Saxony, the state in eastern Germany where Freital is located. It was there that the right-wing, anti-Islam Pegida group was founded in 2013, and the state has one of the highest rates of attacks on refugees in the country.

The anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 27% of the vote in Saxony in last year's federal election, the most of any party and more than double the AfD's proportion nationwide.

The aim of the attacks by the group was to "generate a climate of fear and repression," according to a statement from the prosecutor, who alleged that the group procured explosive materials from the Czech Republic illegally, which they later used to make pipe bombs.

On the opening day of the trial, Maria K.'s attorney told the court his client admitted guilt and regretted her actions, according to ARD. No statements were made on behalf of the other seven defendants.

There is no requirement for defendants to enter a plea under German law.

The defense team had argued that the group was neither a criminal not a terror organization and that the attacks were spontaneous rather than planned, according to German media reports.

Several people were injured as a result of the explosions. During one attack on a refugee home in Freital on the night of October 31, 2015, seven of the accused allegedly attached explosive devices to three windows after identifying that people were inside those rooms.

More than one million asylum seekers and refugees arrived in Germany in 2015 alone, many of them fleeing war in Syria.

CNN's Atika Shubert contributed to this report.

TM & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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