Lina E. is arrested in November 2020 on the charge of being the ringleader of a criminal organisation. The trial becomes one of the biggest trials against anti-fascists in the last thirty years. On May 31st the verdict was pronounced. The defence spoke of a staged trial that had already been decided from the beginning, full of gaps and designed to make a political example.
Arrest and detention of Lina E.
On November 5th 2020, Lina E. is arrested and brought to Karlsruhe by helicopter. When Lina E. gets out of the helicopter, she is surrounded by masked police officers and handcuffed. Such images are often used to show that the state is taking action – as was the case with the Halle assassin, for example. Criticism of this staging soon follows. A presumption of innocence, however, has long since ceased to apply here. Lina E. and the others are accused of having founded a criminal organisation.
This association is alleged to have organised and carried out at least six assaults on people of the extreme right-wing spectrum in the period from 2018 to 2020. Lina E. has now been in pre-trial detention for about two and a half years. Except for one case, the assaults were directed against major neo-Nazi figures. It cannot be proven that Lina E. was present during this attack. Nevertheless, eight years of prison is demanded for the main defendant, less for the co-defendants. Lina E. is the only one of the accused who has no previous convictions. According to a key witness, however, she is said to have been involved in all the assaults and to have been the ringleader. However, there is no solid evidence for this, just as there is none for the mere existence of a criminal organisation.
Even the most vehement proponents of the controversial horseshoe theory should notice some differences between the left-wing and right-wing radicalism in this case. The neo-Nazis who were attacked planned to kill leftists and police officers, but the former prevented them from doing so. One of the fascists, Leon Ringl, wanted to found a German branch of the Atomic Weapons Division. The group had already committed several murders in the USA. It should be obvious by now: Those who equate left-wing anti-fascists with right-wing neo-Nazis are minimising the latter.
This is also the reason why other anti-fascists believe, that it is self-protection on the part of the people around Lina E. If the police and the state don’t take action against right-wingers and therefore aren’t able to prevent right-wing violence, then the only option for the targets is to defend themselves. The attacks in Halle and Hanau are only two examples that confirm the state’s inaction. To say that state institutions should be relied upon is ignorant in the face of the police repression that leftists are subjected to. The horseshoe theory is limp in its exercise alone. While Lina E. has been charged, trials such as the organised attack on the Connewitz district are not being investigated. Yet three days before the “Storming of Connewitz”, the Saxon Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned the security authorities with a critical situation report. After all, it was the largest organised attack by neo-Nazis in thirty years.
In the case of Lina E. and the others, however, four people are on trial. Apart from the fact that the horseshoe theory and its dissemination in court proceedings like these are damaging in themselves, it also seems to be used in a biased way. In the Lina E. trial, the defence also criticises the federal prosecution for being biased by the horseshoe model.
§129: Evidence is unnecessary
The fact that §129 is being discussed by so many people at the moment clearly shows who it seems to be made for. The climate activists of the Last Generation are currently being investigated for having formed a criminal organisation. Likewise, a prosecutor close to the AFD investigated the activists of the Zentrum für Politische Schönheit under §129 for almost a year and a half. The paragraph also recently played a role at the University of Hamburg, where the conference “We want our World back” was not allowed to take place because some groups were possibly close to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). The use of section 129 to criminalise left-wing activists and make examples of them is nothing new. §Paragraph 129 is part of the standard repertoire of the German state to do just that.
Moreover, the paragraph is often not used to prove a concrete crime, but to obtain powers to spy on and monitor people in a particular community. Evidence? It is no longer necessary. The mere accusation of having formed a criminal organisation is enough. That is why it is all the more alarming that the paragraph is being used for various activist camps, because the police also admitted in the trial of Lina E. that it was extremely difficult for them to obtain information about the left-wing scene.
The trial around Lina E.
The trial was conducted at the highest possible level in Germany, but immediately drew attention to itself with problems. One day before the trial began, the far-right magazine Compact, which is monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, published Lina E.’s full name along with pictures. The magazine cited police files as the source of the photos. Furthermore, according to the defence, there was a reversal of the burden of proof in the trial. This is a problem because the prosecution can interpret alleged evidence without having to prove it. This also happened with intercepted telephone calls, from the content of which the presence of the accused was interpreted. However, the defence was able to refute this.
The Süddeutsche also reported on investigative errors. One of the accused, who was alleged to have been involved in the attack on Leon Ringl in Eisenach, had an alibi. What is interesting here is that this alibi was already listed in files that were part of another trial. This case was under the control of the same Attorney General who is in charge of the Antifa East case. The evidence for the alibi, however, was found by the defence only by chance. Whether it was knowingly withheld or had fallen by the wayside due to excessive demands and bias, it makes the evidence look weak. This is also due to the fact that many of the witnesses are the neo-Nazis involved, who made contradictory statements.
The question of how the work of Soko Linx is to be evaluated was also not investigated in the trial. The results of their investigations are important for the trial. In Leipzig, the police are known to be extremely repressive and also work together with Nazis. In general, the Saxon police work hard to accuse the left-wing scene of forming criminal organisations; three times in recent years this has been unsuccessful. The unit, which has existed since 2020, urgently needs a success. This is supposed to be the alleged criminal organisation around Lina E..
State witness testifies against Lina E.
Johannes D. has surprisingly been used as a key witness in the trial, breaking the iron leftist rule of not cooperating with state institutions. However, D. has not been welcome in this very scene for some time: Since October 2021, there have been accusations of rape against him. After a case against him was dropped in March 2022, Johannes D. appeared shortly afterwards as a key witness in the proceedings concerning Lina E. It is not only the left-wing scene affected by this that notices that possible causal connections such as a revenge motive are not addressed in court.
Doubts have also been expressed about the statements of the state witness. For example, his answers regarding certain facts differed. While he testified at the trial in Dresden that Lina E. and the co-defendants had been training together in order to attack Nazis – which would support the suspicion of a criminal organisation – he expressed a different opinion at another trial. The question of whether it was a case of targeted training or a social activity was answered by a representative of the Gera public prosecutor’s office. D. had also spoken of training during the interrogation. However, the fact that the state witness himself did not remember this irritated and delayed the trial.
„Those who fight against Nazis cannot rely on the state.“
The attacks took place without a doubt. The supporters of Lina E. are concerned that a political example is being made of the alleged perpetrators. A criminal organisation is being constructed from individual violent attacks on neo-Nazis and the left-wing scene is being investigated through the use of §129.
Thus, there is still no evidence that Lina E. was the centre of a criminal organisation, whose existence has also not been proven. It hasn’t been proven that Lina E. was directly involved in five of the six cases, which is why the defence is demanding an acquittal in almost all cases. The prosecutor confirmed the lack of solid evidence in her plea. The verdict is to be announced on the 31st of May. The biggest protests by left-wing autonomist and anti-fascist groups are likely to fall on the first weekend of June. In Leipzig, the authorities are expecting participants in the mid-four-digit range and over 2000 police officers. But on the day of the verdict there will already be demonstrations all over Germany, including in front of the Rote Flora in Hamburg.
The trial has also changed the dynamics in the left, anti-fascist scene. The question of whether violence against neo-Nazis can be justified, and if so, how, arises. Or alternatively, whether anti-fascist violence against fascists can be successful. The broad support for Lina E. does not mean that all supporters are ready for violence. But they are in solidarity with those who have decided to engage in militant anti-fascism and are being subjected to a trial that resembles a show trial. For many anti-fascists, the sentence of Holocaust survivor Esther Bejarano has long been ingrained in their minds: “Whoever fights against Nazis cannot rely on the state.