Prematurely condemned: The case of Lina E.

Lina E. is said to have attacked neo-Nazis and has been in custody for months. She has become a figurehead of alleged terrorism.


A wig, two hammers and the messenger app Signal. Under the hashtag #FreiheitfürLina, these three things became symbols for the case of Lina E. last weekend. It is said to be evidence that she is part of a “left-wing extremist cell.” The hashtag trended after ‘die Zeit‘ published a text summarizing the findings since Lina E.’s arrest in November.

That’s because Lina E., a 26-year-old student from Leipzig, has been in custody for five months. She is accused of being involved in two attacks on neo-Nazis in the Thuringian town of Eisenach. In addition – according to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, which has taken over the case – she is alleged to be part of a “criminal organization”. The basis for this is Section 129, which is often invoked when a political background is suspected.

In the summer of 2020, Lina E. already sat in pre-trial detention, but was released shortly afterwards. On November 5, 2020, she was arrested again and flown by helicopter to Karlsruhe, where she was brought before the Federal Supreme Court. The presumption of innocence, which always applies to defendants, no longer seems to play a role for many at this point in time.

This is because the accused has become the figurehead of alleged terrorism and allegedly flourishing “left-wing extremism” in Leipzig. For many media, she was already considered a left-wing extremist perpetrator before an indictment even existed. Lina E. is suddenly no longer just a defendant in a criminal investigation, but, according to a local newspaper, “Germany’s most dangerous left-wing extremist.” Other media use sexist narratives to describe Lina E. in their reporting.

Soko Linx

But a wig, a chat app and hammer do not a terrorist make. They are however, a good symbol for something for which evidence has long been sought. After riots in Connewitz, were stylized into an autonomous myth, and subsequent damage to the police’s image, Lina E’s arrest became a ready-made meal. It was served to all those who see a new RAF terrorism growing in the Saxon city. The “Soko Linx“, is a branch set up by the Saxon LKA (State Criminal Police Office) specially for the left-wing scene. For them the case is an opportunity to finally bring investigative success.

According to the Dresden public prosecutor’s office, Soko Linx has conducted five investigations under Section 129 since 2010. But not a single defendant has been convicted because of their membership in a “left-wing extremist criminal organization” in the last ten years. Probably, the investigations only serves to gather information on the left-wing scene. A few years ago, the LKA Saxony faced strong criticism because during structural investigations in the left-wing soccer milieu in Leipzig, several hundred people were wire-tapped without initial suspicion, including journalists and politicians.

Even if the accused Lina E had been involved in the attack on the neo-Nazis in Eisenach, the case does not cast a good light on the Saxon investigating authorities. Because the evidence against her alleged terrorist intent is so thin. All the while other, much clearer evidence is being investigated on other cases much less vehemently.

For example, if a KSK soldier in Saxony hides weapons and explosives in his garden; has contacts to preppers as well as SEK officers found on his phone; and he privately likes to collect Nazi devotional objects – then he is sentenced to two years probation. If hundreds of armed neo-Nazis tear apart a district, demolish numerous stores and cars and attack people, and there are published chat protocols proving collusion on the attack, fines of only 900 euros are sometimes imposed. Nobody seems to see a criminal association here.

It seems silly that Lina E. should be more dangerous than these people. But it’s easy to sell a a 26-year-old stylized as the leader of a terrorist cell as a scandal. The investigators will once again have to put up with the accusation of applying double standards. And the press will have to ask itself to what extent it has aided and abetted this witch hunt.

This article was originally published in German in the taz on 29.03.2021. Reproduced with permission.