Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the extremist group Oath Keepers, is facing trial at a Federal District Court in Washington DC along with four of his associates for allegedly planning and organising the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021. They have been charged under the seditious conspiracy law for planning an “armed rebellion” to prevent Joe Biden from becoming the president.
The trials are being touted as US Department of Justice’s biggest attempt so far to hold those responsible for the riots accountable.
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Here’s all you need to know about the trials.
Who are being tried?
Four of the five people facing trial are members of the extremist group Oath Keepers. The organisation was founded in 2009 with the stated aim of defending the constitution of the United States. The Oath Keepers who are facing trial are founder Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Florida chapter Kelly Meggs and one of her local associates Kenneth Harrelson, and former US navy officer Thomas Caldwell.
Along with them, Jessica Watkins, who led a separate Ohio-based militia group, will also be facing trial.
What are the charges?
Rhodes and his associates are on trial after they were charged under the seditious conspiracy law and may face imprisonment of up to twenty years if the charges stand. The prosecutors have accused them of conspiring to destroy the Government of US by force and of planning a war against the state.
The prosecutors claim that the Oath Keepers spent weeks gathering weapons, and conducting paramilitary training to stop then president-elect Joe Biden to take up office.
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The Oath Keeper’s defence
Defending themselves, the member of the Oath Keepers and Jessica Watkins have claimed that their words were deliberately misconstrued by the prosecutors. They refuted the prosecutor’s claim of having planned the attack in advance saying that they were at the Capitol to provide security while the transfer of power was going on.
They said that the weapons and gear were for protection against potential violence from the Antifa activists, while the weeks-long preparations were for being ready if Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act.