Home News Plot to overthrow German government goes to court

Plot to overthrow German government goes to court


The first of three trials in the sprawling case will begin in Stuttgart on Monday, a year and a half after German police and intelligence officials uncovered a plot to overthrow the country’s government and replace the prime minister.

Most of the would-be rebels were captured in December 2022, when heavily armed German police stormed houses, apartments, offices and Remote royal hunting lodge and arrested dozens of people. Those charged include a dentist, a clairvoyant, an amateur pilot and a man who ran a large QAnon Telegram group. German authorities claim their puppet is Prince Reuss Heinrich XIII, An obscure, conspiratorial nobleman Who will be appointed prime minister if the coup succeeds.

Investigators say the group, despite its diverse membership, is well-organized and dangerous. Some of its members were former officers trained by Germany’s elite military. One was a judge who became a far-right lawmaker for the Alternative for Germany, a surging populist party known as the Alternative for Germany. Police said the gang hid more than $500,000 in gold and cash; assembled hundreds of guns, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and a batch of explosives; and used satellite phones to communicate once the national communications network was paralyzed.

“All the elements of irony that are naturally present in this group— Elements of QAnonbelief in UFOs, occultism, ideas that could overthrow the institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany – the fact that this organization poses a serious potential threat should not be ignored,” said Jan Rathje, a member of the NGO Monitoring Conspiracy Theories and Right-Wing Extremism.

The trial set to begin on Monday is the first of three this spring and comes as Germany grapples with ongoing concerns. The rise of the far right in politics A week after several people accused of espionage were arrested Russia and China.

Now, federal prosecutors will try to prove that another group came close to launching an attack on the foundations of democracy in Europe’s largest country.

The 26 defendants due to go on trial this spring (a 27th died in prison last month) are part of a growing and increasingly dangerous movement called the Reichsbürger, or Reich Citizens.

German authorities and right-wing extremism experts believe they differ from other far-right extremists in their rejection of the idea of ​​a modern German state, which some believe is actually a corporate “deep state” run by shadow bureaucrats. government”.

Once viewed as harmless eccentrics, Imperial citizens once became famous for making their own passports or refusing to pay taxes or government fines. But that view changed in 2016, when a follower killed a police officer during a raid on his home.

Although the authorities stated that the number of active members of the Reich Civic Movement in Germany was About 23,000Experts say the actual number is much higher. last year, a study Showing that nearly 5% of Germans are open to some form of conspiracy ideology.

Konstantin von Notz, chairman of the German parliament’s intelligence oversight committee, said in an email: “Even if many of the ideologies of the Reich’s citizens may seem bizarre — extremists often pursue far-fetched goals — But that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.”

Prosecutors believe the accused plotters – 21 men and five women – planned to stage a coup by attacking the German parliament. According to a version of the plan leaked by investigators last year, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his ministers were to be tied up and broadcast on state television in an effort to convince the public of regime change.

As part of the plan, former AfD lawmaker Birgit Marsak-Winkelmann led three of them – at least two of whom had military training – into parliament where they scouted and took photos, they said.

Once the conspirators took control of parliament, authorities said, the Guards would move into action to suppress local dissent and recruit soldiers for an army loyal to their cause.

The nine defendants on trial in Stuttgart are accused of being involved in the “military wing” of the conspiracy. Prosecutors allege they were responsible for organizing and recruiting the 286 “Homeland Defense Forces” the conspirators planned to deploy. Prosecutors will argue that the brigades were designed to suppress local resistance and eliminate enemies after the country’s government was overthrown.

They face charges of planning treasonous acts and joining a terrorist organization. The two charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, but the combined sentence could be longer.

Some of the defendants were also charged with violating weapons laws, with one facing an attempted murder charge for shooting a police officer during an arrest.

Don’t expect a verdict anytime soon. Such a complex trial in Germany could take years to prosecute, and the case already involves more than a dozen judges and nearly a hundred defense lawyers.

A quirk of German law also requires that the panel of judges overseeing the case must hear and see all testimony and evidence.

Each defendant also has several defense attorneys, each of whom is entitled to follow-up questions.

The trial of Prince Royce, his Russian girlfriend and the founder of the group is due to begin in Frankfurt next month. Due to the large number of people involved, including seven men and two women, who were tried in these proceedings and attended by multiple judges, lawyers and court officials, a new temporary court had to be built on the outskirts of the city to handle the trials.

The third trial, held at a high-security court in Munich, will hear eight more defendants accused of serving on the conspiracy’s leadership committee, the cabinet that awaited the coup.

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