Germany launches trial of far-right coup plotters

Nine suspects will take the stand in Stuttgart for attempting to install minor aristocrat and businessman Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss.

Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss
Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss [File: Reuters]

Nine suspected members of a German far-right group accused of plotting to overthrow the government are set to go on trial.

German prosecutors will open the hearing in the southwest city of Stuttgart on Monday. The nine suspects are accused of plotting a violent coup to install minor aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss as Germany’s leader and imposing martial law.

The case claims that the defendants – including former soldiers and judges, as well as a member of parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany – participated in the “military arm” of the German Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), which espouses conspiracy-based theories regarding sovereignty.

The plot unravelled in late 2022 when police launched a series of raids. Charges include high treason.

One person faces an additional charge of attempted murder related to shots fired at police officers, who were injured in the confrontation, as they searched Reuss’s home in March last year.

A total of 27 defendants are accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the German government while accepting the likelihood that people would die. The plan was to install Reuss as the head of a new form of government.

The hearings will be split among three courts across three cities.

BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 07: Police stand outside a residence that they raided earlier today on December 7, 2022 in Berlin, Germany
Police stand outside a house they raided in Berlin, Germany [File: Carsten Koall/Getty Images]

Real danger

The Stuttgart trial is to focus on the group’s military wing, which is charged with attempting to overthrow the state by force of arms. According to the charges, they had started forming 280 armed units.

Prosecutors say the suspects’ meticulous planning and stocks of firearms and cash show they were a real danger, Reuters news agency reported.

“They planned to infiltrate an armed group into the parliament building in Berlin, detain legislators and bring down the system,” they wrote. “They understood that seizing power would involve killing people.”

The accused, aged between 42 and 60, are alleged to have joined the association in 2022 and have been active in various roles for the military wing.

Hatred of democracy

The alleged plotters – including right-wing hardliners and gun enthusiasts – espoused a mix of “conspiracy myths” drawn from the global QAnon movement and the German Reichsbuerger scene, according to prosecutors.

Similar to the “sovereign citizen” movement in the United States and other far-right, conspiracy-based movements in Europe, Reichsbuergers believe they are citizens of an earlier state – in this case, the pre-World War I German Reich – which has been usurped by modern political structures.

Reichsbuerger groups are driven by “hatred of our democracy”, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said before the start of the trial.

“We will continue our tough approach until we have fully exposed and dismantled militant Reichsbuerger structures,” she added.

Source: News Agencies