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Germany: 5 charged with treason in suspected terror plot

  • January 24, 2023

Treason charges have been brought against five people who allegedly planned to overthrow the German government, the federal prosecutor’s office said Monday. 

The individuals, all of whom have ties to Germany’s far-right Reichsbürger scene, as well as other neo-Nazi gangs, aimed to trigger “civil war-like conditions in Germany by means of violence” in order to topple the government, the prosecutor said. The defendants are also accused of planning to kidnap German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.

Lauterbach thanked investigators and Germany’s federal criminal police for the arrest. “Criminal federal police officials risk their lives for us. This is a great service,” he tweeted.

What was the alleged terror plot?

The suspects are accused of planning to attack power infrastructure to cause a nationwide blackout, and then abduct the health minister; killing his bodyguards if necessary.

The federal prosecutor’s office found that the suspects wanted to take over the state and replace it with an “authoritarian system of government based on the model of the German Empire.”

Prosecutors said the suspects had made increasingly concrete preparations and created separate military and administrative branches of their group.

According to the prosecutor’s statement, the group had accepted that the plans could involve the loss of lives.

What else do we know about the charges?

According to authorities in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, the supects will answer to the higher regional court in Koblenz in the Rhineland-Palatinate region. They are accused of “founding or being a member of a domestic terrorist organization” and “preparing an act of high treason” against the German federal government.

Some of the accused are also facing other charges, such as “preparing a serious act of violence that constitutes a threat to the state, or financing terrorism.”

Four men belonging to the group were arrested in April 2022. One woman, identified as a ringleader, was arrested in October. All five suspects are in custody.

Members of the far-right Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement believe deep-state conspiracy theories that deny the existence of Germany’s post-World War II Federal Republic, and reject the authority of the German government. They claim that the 1937 borders of the German empire still exist.

Others who were targeted in police raids that led to arrests were members of neo-Nazi gangs such as “Atomwaffen Division Deutschland” (AWD), “Sonderkommando 1418” (SKD 1418), Combat 18 Deutschland and Knockout 51.   

js,sdi/wmr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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