April 12, 2024

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Germany raids far-right group over plot to install prince in coup

Germany raids far-right group over plot to install prince in coup

BERLIN: Germany on Wednesday detained 25 members and supporters of a far-right group that the prosecutor’s office said was preparing a violent overthrow of the state to install as national leader a prince who had sought support from Russia.
Prosecutors said suspects were also arrested in Austria and Italy. Among those detained were a member of the farright Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who had served in the German parliament, a member of the German nobility and a Russian citizen accused of supporting the group’s plans. Prosecutors said they were probing a total of 52 suspects. AfD condemned the group’s efforts. Prosecutors said the group was inspired by the deep state conspiracy theories of Germany’s Reichsbuerger and QAnon, whose advocates were among those arrested after the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021. Membersof the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) do not recognise modern-day Germany as a legitimate state. Some of them are devoted to the German empire under monarchy, while some are adherents of Nazi ideas and others believe Germany is under military occupation.
The plot envisaged a former member of a German royal family, identified as Heinrich XIII under Germany’s privacy law, as leader in a future state. The group had emulated the structure of the government, creating a “council” that had regularly met since November 2021 as an administration in waiting with different departments, such as foreign affairs and health, prosecutors said. The group had been procuring equipment, trying to recruit new members and holding shooting lessons, prosecutors added. The focus of the recruitment efforts were primarily members of the military and police officers, they said.
Prosecutors said Heinrich 71, who uses the title prince and comes from the royal House of Reuss, which had ruled over parts of Germany, had reached out to representatives of Russia, whom the group saw as its central contact for establishing its new order. It said there was no evidence the representatives had reacted positively to the request. The House of Reuss had previously distanced itself from Heinrich, calling him a confused man whopursued conspiracy theories. Neither the House of Reuss nor the Prince’s office responded to requests for comment.
A Russian citizen, whom prosecutors identified as “Vitalia B,” was “strongly suspected” of supporting Heinrich in trying to establish contacts with Moscow. An interior ministry spokesperson said security agencies were looking closely at any possible contact with Russia. The Kremlin said there could be no question of any Russian involvement in an alleged far-right plot, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying it “appears to be aGerman internal problem”.
The German government will respond with the full force of the law, interior minister Nancy Faeser said. “The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbuerger milieu,” Faeser said, adding that the constitutional state knew how to defend itself against “the enemies of democracy”.
Investigators suspect individual members of the group had concrete plans to storm the Bundestag lower house of parliament in Berlin with a small armed group, prosecutors said. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency attributes some 21,000 people to the Reichsbuerger movement, with around 5% of them seen as farright extremists.