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German extremists on trial over attempted coup

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The men have been linked to the ‘Reichsbürger’ movement, which refuses to recognise the Federal Republic of Germany as a legitimate state.
Nine members of a German extremist group are on trial this week, over an alleged violent plot to overthrow the country’s government in 2022.

Nine members of a German extremist group are facing trial this week, over an alleged violent plot to overthrow the country’s government in 2022.

The men have been linked to the ‘Reichsbürger’ movement, which refuses to recognise the Federal Republic of Germany as a legitimate state.

This week’s hearings mark the first in a series of trials of 26 suspected Reichsbürger members — including former soldiers and a former politician. It’s believed to be the biggest anti-terror case in recent German history.

German extremist group

In 2022, Reichsbürger was believed to have around 23,000 members. The group has refused to acknowledge the German Government’s validity since the end of World War II.

A recent study of over 5,500 people found that 5% of Germans were open to Reichsbürger ideologies.

According to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, “one in 20 were “convinced” that Germany has been ruled by “occupying powers” (e.g. the U.S. and UK) since WWII ended in 1945.

Attempted coup

The group’s intended coup would have seen the descendant of a minor royal family, Prince Heinrich XIII Reuss, appointed as Germany’s leader.

Former far-right MP Birgit Malsack-Winkemann intended to serve as the Justice Minister of the proposed new state.

The group allegedly gathered an extensive number of weapons to overthrow the German Parliament by force. The plot was intercepted by a series of police raids in 2022. Several suspects were arrested at the time.

The trial

Suspected members of the collective are facing charges including ‘high treason’ (undermining a government or its laws) and belonging to a terror organisation.

Those charged will be tried in three separate cases across three cities, starting in Stuttgart where 300 witnesses are expected to be called across 48 days of hearings.

If found guilty, the nine men facing trial first face up to 10 years in prison.

One man, identified by authorities as ‘Markus L’, has also been accused of shooting at police during a raid of his home. If found guilty, he’ll face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Reuss and Malsack-Winkemann will face trial in Frankfurt next month.

The final hearings will be held in Munich in June. Rulings aren’t expected until next year.

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