Trial against "Oath Keepers": Lawyer portrays militia as "peacekeeping troops".

When Donald Trump mobilizes his supporters to storm the US Capitol, the Oath Keepers are well prepared.

Trial against "Oath Keepers": Lawyer portrays militia as "peacekeeping troops".

When Donald Trump mobilizes his supporters to storm the US Capitol, the Oath Keepers are well prepared. Members of the right-wing extremist militia stand ready in combat gear. As a defensive strike force, her attorney alleges in federal court. The public prosecutor's office, on the other hand, assumes a "seditious conspiracy".

In the trial of five members of the far-right US militia Oath Keepers for storming the Capitol in early 2021, prosecutors have accused the accused of planning an "armed rebellion". The goal was to "violently oppose the US government," prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said in his opening statement before a federal court in Washington. "You didn't come to the Capitol to defend or to help. You came to attack."

According to Nestler, the accused founder of the militia, Stewart Rhodes, behaved "like a general on the battlefield". The prosecution showed the jury video footage of dozens of Oath Keepers in riot gear attacking the seat of the US Congress on January 6, 2021. Known for his black eye patch, Rhodes and the four other Oath Keepers have been charged with "seditious conspiracy". It is the first trial to storm the US Capitol on this serious charge, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

Rhodes' attorney, Phillip Linder, denied the prosecution's allegations. The Oath Keepers traveled to Washington in January 2021 to provide security at events for supporters of then President Donald Trump. "The Oath Keepers are basically a peacekeeping force," the attorney said. Militia members formed an armed "rapid reaction force" in case they were needed. However, they would only have intervened "defensively" if "Trump had called them".

Hundreds of radical supporters of President Donald Trump, who was voted out of office in the 2020 presidential election, stormed Congress when Democrat Joe Biden's election victory was to be certified. The attack on the Capitol with five dead caused horror worldwide and is considered a black day in the history of US democracy. In the weeks and months that followed, more than 870 attackers were arrested. Penalties have already been imposed in hundreds of cases, including for attacks on police officers.

The trial of the Oath Keepers began last week with jury selection. The charge of "seditious conspiracy" is aimed, among other things, at attempts to overthrow the US government. It is rarely used in the US. The defense lawyers for the accused argue, among other things, that their clients had by no means aimed at overthrowing the government. Rather, they would have expected Trump to activate the so-called Insurrection Act of 1807 and then legally hire militias like the Oath Keepers to maintain law and order. "Rhodes is extremely patriotic," his attorney Linder said in court. "He's a constitutional expert."

Prosecutor Nestler dismissed such an argument as a "legal cloak". The prosecution referred, among other things, to messages from the Oath Keepers in encrypted messenger services, in which they spoke of a "civil war". Co-defendant Thomas Caldwell wrote that if Congress certifies Biden's election victory, he will "personally start the civil war".

The ex-soldier Rhodes, a law graduate of the US elite university Yale, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009. In particular, the militia recruits former or current police officers and soldiers and wants to defend itself against an alleged tyranny by the US government. As with other extremist groups, there is widespread sympathy for Trump among the Oath Keepers.

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