Suspected German coup plot spawns dozens of arrests

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BERLIN (AP) — German police detained dozens of people, including a self-proclaimed prince, a retired paratrooper and a former judge Wednesday. They accused the suspects of discussing the violent overthrow of the government, but left unclear how concrete the plans were.

A German official and a lawmaker said investigators may have uncovered real conspiracies, drunken fantasizing, or both. Regardless, Germany takes any right-wing threat seriously, and thousands of police officers carried out predawn raids across much of the country.

“We are talking about a group that, according to what we know so far, intended to abolish our democratic rule of law by force and carry out an armed attack,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said at the German parliament building.

Sara Nanni, a legislator for the Green Party, part of the German government, suggested the group may not be able.

“More and more details are coming to light that cast doubt on whether these people were smart enough to plan and carry out such a coup,” Nanni said in a post on the social network Mastodon. “Fact is, no matter how crude their ideas and how hopeless their plans, even the attempt is dangerous!”

Federal prosecutors said the group allegedly believed in a “conglomeration of conspiracy theories made up of stories from the so-called Reich Citizens and the QAnon ideology. Supporters of the Reichsburger Movement reject Germany’s post-war constitution and have called for the government to be brought down, while QAnon is a global conspiracy theory with roots in the United States.

The Reich Citizens scene has been under observation by the German domestic intelligence service since 2016. Authorities estimate that the loose movement has about 21,000 followers.

Prosecutors said the suspects also believe Germany is ruled by a so-called “deep state”.

Among the alleged leaders arrested on Wednesday is Henry XIII Prince Reuss, a 71-year-old member of the House of Reuss who continues to use the title despite Germany abolishing any formal role for royalty more than a century ago.

Federal prosecutors said Reuss, whom the group planned to install as Germany’s new leader, had contacted Russian officials with the aim of imposing a new order in the country once the German government was overthrown. There is nothing to indicate that the Russians reacted positively.

Police also arrested Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a judge and former lawmaker for the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Alternative for Germany, known by the abbreviation AfD, is increasingly under scrutiny by security services because of his ties to extremists.

Co-leaders of the AfD, Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel, said they only knew about the alleged coup plans through the media and condemned them.

“We have full confidence in the authorities involved and demand a prompt and comprehensive investigation,” they said in a statement.

Federal prosecutor Peter Frank said some 3,000 officers were involved in the raids carried out at 150 locations in 11 of Germany’s 16 states.

Officers arrested 22 German citizens on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization,” prosecutors said. Three other people, including a Russian citizen, were detained on suspicion of supporting the organization, they said. An additional 27 people were examined.

One of those arrested was a soldier who served with the support staff of the German special forces unit KSK in the southwestern town of Calw. The unit has been scrutinized about what officials called some soldiers’ far-right beliefs.

In addition to detentions in Germany, prosecutors said one person was detained in the Austrian town of Kitzbühel and another in Italy.

The latest suspect, a 64-year-old German citizen who is a former officer in the special forces of the German army, is accused of being part of a criminal organization whose purpose was to “destroy the German democratic order by all possible means – including criminal – and replace it with another unidentified form of government,” the police said in a statement, adding that extradition proceedings were ongoing.

“Of course there are many people who stand and tell confused stories after drinking alcohol,” said German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. “In this case, however, there were such strong suspicions that the group wanted to take violent action that the investigating judge of the Federal Supreme Court ordered investigative measures to be taken.”

Some members of the group had made “concrete preparations” to storm the German federal parliament with a small armed group, prosecutors said.

Wednesday’s raids showed that “we know how to defend ourselves with full force against the enemies of democracy,” said Interior Secretary Nancy Faeser.

“The research provides insight into the depth of the terrorist threat within the Reichsburger milieu,” said Faeser. “Only further investigation will provide a clear picture of how far the coup plans had come.”

Officials have warned repeatedly that far-right extremists pose the greatest threat to Germany’s internal security. This threat was highlighted by the assassination of a regional politician and the deadly attack on a synagogue in 2019. A year later, far-right extremists who took part in a protest against the country’s pandemic restrictions tried but failed to storm the Bundestag building in Berlin.

Faeser announced this year that the government planned to disarm about 1,500 suspected extremists and to tighten background checks for those seeking to acquire guns as part of a broader crackdown by the far right.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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