Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, is being prosecuted for ‘sedition’, a charge involving conspiring against the government and punishable by 20 years in prison.
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The leader of the Oath Keepers, one of the main American far-right groups, was arrested on Thursday January 13. Stewart Rhodes is charged with “sedition” for his role in the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, which resulted in the deaths of five people. This is the most serious charge to date against the participants in the attack on the seat of the American Congress, when the elected officials certified the victory of Joe Biden in the presidential election.
Ten other members of the Oath Keepers have also been charged with “sedition”. Nine of them had already been arrested and faced prosecution for “criminal association”, which implies a certain degree of coordination. The charge of “sedition”, very rarely used and punishable by 20 years in prison, goes further: it supposes having conspired against the government and takes on a much more political dimension.
According to the indictment, two days after the presidential election on November 3, 2020, Stewart Rhodes claimed in an encrypted conversation with other members of the Oath Keepers: “We can’t get out of this without a civil war.” During the weeks that followed, he “associated” with some of his co-defendants “with a view to preventing the peaceful transfer of power”, especially “using violence”, according to the federal prosecutor’s office.
Members of the arrested Oath Keepers have thus “organized transport from all over the country to Washington, equipped themselves with all kinds of weapons, dressed in combat gear and were ready to answer Rhodes’ calls to arms”. Their goal was to “to enter by force and attempt to gain control” of the Capitol, says the federal prosecutor’s office. At the time of the attack, Stewart Rhodes, a former military man who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, was near the Capitol but it is unclear whether he entered its compound.
In another part of this vast investigation, the parliamentary committee responsible for shedding light on the events of January 6 and establishing the possible responsibility of Donald Trump announced Thursday to subpoena YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. The elect want to know “how much the spread of disinformation and violent extremism has contributed” to this assault and the possible measures taken by these web giants to prevent their platforms from becoming tools of radicalization.