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Bavaria

Prosecutors accuse officer of failing to prevent 'Reichsbürger' attack

Prosecutors are probing a policeman with suspected links to the far-right "Reichsbürger" group. He's accused of failing to prevent a fellow officer's death by withholding information about a dangerous member.

Public prosecutors in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg on Monday launched an investigation into a police officer with suspected links to the radical "Reichsbürger" group.

The prosecution alleges that the 50-year-old official knew of the dangers posed by the group and therefore could have prevented the death of a fellow policeman, who died in a shootout in Georgensgmünd in October.

The policeman was killed after a 49-year-old suspected "Reichsbürger" opened fire on a group on officers as they raided his residence to retrieve licensed weapons he had been deemed unfit to handle. Three other policemen were also injured in the shootout, one severely.

The gun owner was apprehended shortly afterwards. Following his arrest, it became clear that he had contacts in the police force.

Since then, at least 15 police force members across Germany face disciplinary action over suspected links to the radical group. Among those is the 50-year-old officer, who was suspended from his post in November.

Prosecutors said he would have known through his links that the raid risked escalating and leading to an exchange of gunfire. He would have therefore been obliged to pass the information on "so that the appropriate measures could have been taken to prevent the shootout."

By failing to do so, the suspended policeman stands of accused of contributing to the officer's death through gross negligence. The policeman has not responded to the allegations.

A second police officer with suspected links to the "Reichsbürger" group is also under investigation for allegedly sharing official secrets.

The prosecution authority has not yet disclosed whether the two policemen are self-professed "Reichsbürger" or just maintain links to the group.

Who are the 'Reichsbürger?'

 The "Reichsbürger" group - which translates as "Citizens of the Reich" - are largely heterogeneous group united by their refusal to recognize the authority of the German state, asserting instead that the German Reich continues to exist in its 1937 pre-war borders, despite the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII.

Their  followers also often refuse to pay taxes or fines, and some use homemade IDs and registration plates. One member proclaimed himself king, others print their own currency.

The movement boasts an estimated 4,500 supporters across Germany, according to information the "Rheinische Post" newspaper gathered in December from German state interior ministers and domestic intelligence services.

dm/msh (AFP, dpa)