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Far-left protesters clash with German police in Leipzig after trial verdict

BERLIN (AP) — Far-left supporters of a young woman given a lengthy prison sentence for participating in attacks on neo-Nazis and other extremists clashed with police in the eastern German city of Leipzig over the weekend, leaving 50 officers and a number of protesters injured.

Saturday’s planned demonstration among backers of Lina E., whose full name wasn’t released because of privacy rules, was banned by the city of Leipzig. Police said that around 1,500 protesters showed up despite the ban.

What started out as a largely peaceful rally eventually led to clashes between protesters and police, in which some demonstrators threw stones, bottles and fireworks as police attempted to clear certain areas of the city. Leipzig police chief Rene Demmler said Sunday that 50 officers and an unknown number of protesters were injured, according to German news agency dpa.

Authorities are now investigating individuals for serious disturbance of the peace and attacking police officers. Around 30 people were arrested, Demmler said, and another 40 to 50 were detained and released by Sunday afternoon.

German interior minister Nancy Faeser denounced some protesters’ violent actions and wished the injured officers a speedy recovery in a statement Sunday.

“Nothing justifies the senseless violence of left-wing extremist chaos and rioters,” she said. “Anyone who throws stones, bottles or incendiary devices at police officers must be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, some politicians criticized the police’s approach to the protesters, saying it was unnecessarily aggressive.

Albrecht Pallas, a politician from the center-left Social Democrats in Saxony’s regional legislature, slammed the police’s “provocative approach,” according to dpa. He added that the huge police presence and the police response to smaller scuffles “had an escalating effect, which mostly affected uninvolved bystanders.”

The protests came in response to a Dresden state court’s Wednesday decision to convict Lina E. of membership in a criminal organization and serious bodily harm. She was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

Several hours later, the court said she had been released under unspecified conditions after having spent about 2½ years in custody before the verdict.

Prosecutors accused the student of “militant extreme-left ideology” and conceiving the idea of attacks on far-right individuals in Leipzig and nearby towns. Three men are alleged to have joined her by the end of 2019. The court in Dresden sentenced them to between 27 months and 39 months in prison.

This weekend’s protests in Leipzig follow similar demonstrations there and in other cities around Germany, including Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg, in the days following the verdict.

Another protest, which has also been banned by the city, was announced for Sunday evening.

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