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German Police Arrest 25 Over Far-right Plot to Overthrow Govt
German authorities yesterday arrested 25 people suspected of plotting to use the armed force to storm parliament and violently overthrow the state, marking one of country’s largest ever raids targeting right-wing extremists.
Majority of those arrested were accused of being part of a “terrorist organisation,” according to the public prosecutor’s statement, while the remaining three — including a Russian national — were detained on suspicion of being supporters.
According to Washington Post, in addition to the arrests, police searched the properties of a further 27 individuals who were being investigated on an “initial suspicion” of being a member or having supported the organisation.
The statement noted that more than 3,000 police officers were involved in the raids, which took place in 11 of Germany’s 16 states.
“Democracy is well defended,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted afterwards. “It’s suspected that an armed attack was planned against constitutional bodies,” he added.
The accused subscribe to a range of conspiracy theories, including QAnon and the extremist Reichsbürger movement, which denies the existence of the modern German state, the prosecutor’s statement said.
“They are firmly convinced that Germany is currently governed by members of a so-called ‘deep state,’” it said, adding that they are “united by a deep rejection of state institutions.”
The group was prepared to use violence — including the murder of state representatives — to carry out its aim of replacing the existing order in Germany with its own form of government, the prosecutor said.
The group’s central “council” was headed by an individual named as Heinrich XIII P.R., whom German news media identified the individual as Prince Heinrich XIII, 71, a descendant of the House of Reuss, a royal dynasty from the German state of Thuringia.
“Since November 2021, the members of the ‘Council’ have regularly met in secret to plan the intended takeover of power in Germany and the establishment of their own state structures,” the statement said.
Members believed that “liberation” would be assisted by the intervention of the “Alliance” — a secret society of military and governments, including those of Russia and the United States.
Heinrich XIII had reached out to Russian representatives inside Germany, the prosecutor’s office said — although it added there were no indications of a positive response to his overtures.
The council also had a military arm, which would have been involved in the armed takeover of the state. This body included former members of Germany’s armed forces, and recruitment efforts were targeted toward members of the military and police.
There is a suspicion that individual members of the group made preparations to use arms to force their way into the German Bundestag, or parliament, prosecutors said.
Greens party lawmaker Konstantin von Notz drew parallels to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“At the latest since January 6, 2021, we have known that anti-democratic speech can also be followed by actions directed against democracy and parliament,” he said. “Today, the German security authorities have succeeded in putting a stop to such plans to seize power.”
The Reichsbürger or “Reich citizen” movement subscribes to a state based on Germany’s pre-World War II borders. Modern laws and governments are considered illegitimate, and some believe that descendants of former German royal families should be reinstated in their positions.
It is a small extremist fringe that has grown in recent years, rising to more prominence during the pandemic, when its members took to the street alongside a mix of conspiracy theorists and other right-wing groups. The movement is made up of small groups active across borders and online, with German intelligence warning that some subgroups have rapidly grown in recent years.
In 2021, the movement was estimated to include about 21,000 people nationwide, according to a report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, which estimated that about 10 percent of those were “violence-oriented.”
“The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbürger milieu,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. “The suspected terrorist organization uncovered today is — according to the state of the investigations — driven by violent overthrow fantasies and conspiracy ideologies.”
The barracks of a unit of Germany’s Special Forces Command, known as the KSK, was among the locations raided on Wednesday, Der Spiegel magazine reported. The German Defense Ministry disbanded one unit of the elite counterterrorism force in 2020 and announced a restructuring due to suspected extreme right-wing ties of its members.
According to Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, one of the defendants posted on Telegram shortly before the raids that public prosecutors, judges and health authorities would “soon find themselves in the dock at Nuremberg 2.0,” in reference to the trials of Nazi war criminals held after World War II.
The suspects were set to appear in court on Wednesday and Thursday.