Explained: What is Gruppe S, the German far-right group on trial?
On Tuesday, the trial of 11 individuals who are believed to be members of Germany’s far-right group called “Gruppe S” (Group S) began in the city of Stuttgart. These 11 members are suspected of planning attacks on mosques, asylum centres and the German parliament.
Earlier in March, Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies designated the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as a suspected extremist group.
What is Gruppe S and what are the charges against its members?
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office brought charges against eleven alleged members and one alleged supporter of a right-wing “terrorist” organisation Gruppe S on November 4, 2020.
According to information available on the German government website, the organisation was founded by Werner S, Tony E, Michael B, Frank H, Thomas N, Marcel W, Wolfgang W and Paul-Ludwig U during a meeting in September 2019. “This meeting and the merger took place at the instigation of Werner S,” a government press release says.
Further, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office maintains that the aim of the founding members was to “shake the state and social order” of Germany by means of a civil war. This would involve attacks on mosques and killing or injuring a large number of Muslims present in the mosque.
The group also planned to attack political dissenters.
During the meeting when the organisation was formed, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office says that right-wing extremist after whom the group is named, Werner S, “was already carrying a sharp pistol with which he also carried out target practice at the meeting place”.
The association had further plans to collect firearms to carry out the planned attacks and an amount of 50,000 euros was to be raised by the team members.
According to German online media website Zeit Online, one group called “Der harte Kern” (The Hard Core) formed on the app Telegram by one hairdresser Marion G sometime around early 2019 is one of the germ-cells of Group S.
Far-right sentiment in Europe
Support for right-wing parties is on the rise in Europe, which in recent years has seen a surge in popularity of outfits such as the AfD in Germany and Vox in Spainthat have brought the ideas of national identity and immigration to the forefront.
In August last year, violence erupted in the Swedish city of Malmo where about 300 people had gathered to protest against anti-Islam activities. The Swedish parliament’s third-largest party, the right-wing Sweden Democrats that has roots in Neo-Nazism, has created the perception among people in recent years that the influx of predominantly Muslim immigrants has led to a surge in crime, and since the 2015-2016 migrant crisis, many Swedes view refugees as putting pressure on public finances in a country that has one of the most generous welfare programs in the world.