Alarm as German climate activists charged with ‘forming a criminal organisation’

Alarm as German climate activists charged with ‘forming a criminal organisation’

Five members of Letzte Generation, Germany’s equivalent to Just Stop Oil, have been charged with “forming a criminal organisation”.

Mirjam Herrmann, 27, Henning Jeschke, 22, Edmund Schulz, 60, Lukas Popp, 25, and Jakob Beyer, 30, were charged under section 129 of the German criminal code. It is believed to be the first time the law has been applied to a non-violent protest group.

According to prosecutors in the state of Brandenburg, the charges relate to more than a dozen “attacks” against oil refineries, the Berlin-Brandenburg airport and the Museum Barberini, in Potsdam, between April 2022 and May 2023.

The incidents include protests in which supporters of the group attempted to switch off oil pumping stations leading to the refinery, blocked airport runways and threw mashed potatoes at an oil painting by Monet.

The activists say all their protests were open, accountable and non-violent, and contested the use of such a draconian law against them.

“This charge is especially dangerous for democracy and the right to peaceful protest because the charge turns the constitutional right of protest, freedom of speech and political assembly into a crime simply because some laws were broken in course of civil disobedient protest.” said Herrmann.

“With the indictment, the criminalisation of climate protest in Germany reaches a new level of escalation,” Paula Zimmermann, an expert on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly at Amnesty International Germany, said.