Germany arrests members of far-right group suspected of planning to overthrow state

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German authorities on Wednesday detained 25 members and supporters of a far-right group that the prosecutor’s office said were preparing a violent overthrow of the state, with some members suspected of plotting an armed attack on the parliament.

One active soldier and several reservists are among those being investigated, a spokesperson for the military intelligence service (BAMAD) told Reuters. The active soldier is a member of the Special Forces Command, it said.

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A former parliamentary lawmaker from the far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD) who serves as a judge in Berlin was also among those detained, along with a former member of a German royal family.

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, the prosecutor’s office said.

One of the suspects, identified as Heinrich XIII P. R. under Germany’s privacy law, had reached out to representatives of Russia, whom the group saw as its central contact for establishing its new order, the office said. It said there was no evidence the representatives had reacted positively to the request.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin responded, saying there could be no question of any Russian involvement in the alleged far-right plot to overthrow the German state.

“This appears to be a German internal problem,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “There can be no question of any Russian interference.”

Heinrich, who comes from the royal House of Reuss, which had ruled over parts of eastern Germany, was seen as the designated leader in the group’s future state while another suspect, Ruediger v. P., was the head of the military arm, the office said.

The House of Reuss had previously distanced itself from Heinrich, calling him a confused man who pursued conspiracy theories, according to local media. The house did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Prosecutors said the raids were conducted by more than 3,000 police officials and security forces across 11 German federal states. Suspects were arrested in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony, Thuringia as well as in Austria and Italy, said the office.

The suspects are accused of preparing, since the end of November 2021 at the latest, to carry out actions based on their ideology, according to the office. These actions include procuring equipment, recruiting new members and holding shooting lessons, it added.

The focus of the recruitment efforts were primarily members of the military and police officers, the office said.

The group was aware its plan would involve deaths, the office said, adding that its members considered this scenario to be a “necessary intermediate step” toward overarching system change.

The group’s ideology is in the same vein as the far-right Reichsbuerger movement and QAnon conspiracy theorists who share the deep conviction that Germany is ruled by a “Deep State,” the office. It did not name the suspected group.

Members of the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) do not recognize modern-day Germany as a legitimate state, and insist the former, far larger “Deutsche Reich” still exists despite Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War Two.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Wednesday tht investigations into a far-right plot to overthrow the German state show the threat posed by the “Reichsbuerger” movement.

“The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbuerger milieu,” Faeser said in a statement, adding “we are taking action against such endeavors with all the consequences of the rule of law.”

“We will continue to take this hard line.”

The BAMAD said it had worked with the prosecutors on their investigation and shared information with the domestic intelligence service and federal criminal investigators in the run up to Wednesday’s raids.

The detained suspects will appear before a judge at the Federal Court of Justice on Wednesday and Thursday who will issue the arrest warrants and decide on their pre-trial detention.

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