Suspected of coup plans – now the terror targets begin

Suspected of coup plans now the terror targets begin


They are accused of planning a violent coup in Germany. One had barricaded himself with an automatic weapon when the police knocked.

Major terror trials begin against a group of conspiracy theorist extremists and their leader, an aristocrat who calls himself a prince.

Dozens of people were arrested when German police carried out around a hundred dawn raids across Germany in December 2022. They were described as a “dangerous group of people with irrational beliefs, some with a lot of money and others with weapons”. Their suspected goal: to storm the Bundestag and overthrow the government.

A 72-year-old descendant of the former noble family of Reuss, self-titled Prince Heinrich XIII, has been singled out as the group’s leader – and as the one who was intended to become the country’s new leader after the coup.

In the first of three extensive trials, nine people were brought before the counter in Stuttgart on Monday. They are charged with terrorist crimes and high treason.

Shoot a cop

According to the indictment, the nine were part of a military branch where they formed a series of armed cells according to the military model. One of the defendants is a soldier who denies any crime and claims to have organized the groups for peaceful purposes.

When police raided another of the accused’s apartments in March 2023, the man had, according to police footage, barricaded himself with an automatic weapon and bulletproof vest. He shot at the police officers, hitting one of them in the arm and is therefore also charged with attempted murder.

In total, several hundred weapons have been seized in the investigation.

Terror or not?

The so-called prince and other leading figures in the movement will be put on trial in Frankfurt on May 21, together with, among others, a former Bundestag politician, a former paratrooper and a police officer.

The third trial begins in Munich on June 18. The proceedings are expected to continue into next year.

The judiciary must first and foremost determine whether the movement is to be considered a terrorist organization.

FACTS Conspiracy theories and extremism

The Reichsbürger movement is a loosely-knit network of right-wing extremists, monarchists, gun enthusiasts and all manner of conspiracy theorists who want to overthrow the German Republic and replace it with a pre-World War II German Empire.

German authorities have long raised the alarm about the movement’s legalistic methods, where it has organized large-scale contacts with various authorities with the aim of overwhelming the bureaucracy.

In December 2022, tens of people were arrested in about a hundred raids across Germany, suspected of having long-standing plans for a coup d’état within the framework of the Reichsbürger movement. According to a major terrorist indictment, they wanted to overthrow the government and install a new government, led by a 72-year-old far-right nobleman.

Many different conspiracy theories thrive in the movement, such as hard-line vaccine skepticism, denial of the Holocaust and ideas from the so-called Qanon movement in the United States.

Another group of Reichsbürger-affiliated individuals is indicted on suspicion of plotting to kidnap German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach in a separate coup plot.

In 2016, one police officer was killed and three were seriously injured when a Reichsbürger man opened fire during a raid outside Nuremberg.

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