German biathlon ex-coach fights to get weapons back after extremism accusation | News | DW | 10.07.2019
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German biathlon ex-coach fights to get weapons back after extremism accusation

Andreas Stitzl had his gun license revoked after German authorities strongly suspected he was part of the far-right Reichsbürger movement. The former biathlon coach has denied the claim and is demanding his guns back.

The former assistant coach for the German national men's biathlon team appeared before a court in Munich on Wednesday in a bid to get his weapons back after they were confiscated.

Andreas Stitzl's firearms license was revoked after authorities in the southern German state of Bavaria suspected him of being close to the far-right Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement.

"I want to decisively say that I firmly and clearly distance myself from the Reichsbürger scene. The same goes for right-wing radicalism," Stitzl told the court, according to news agency DPA.

"That's not who I am," he added.

Stitzl described the accusations against him as "shocking." He also emphasized that during his time coaching on the German national biathlon team from 2014 to 2018, he served as a representative of his country.

Biathlon is a popular winter sport in Germany that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

Authorities concerned about remarks

Stitzl came to the attention of Bavarian authorities in 2015 due to his application to receive proof of citizenship.

The district administration office in the southern town of Traunstein, said that Stitzl made statements that are frequently used in Reichsbürger circles — including describing the local administration office as a private company.

They revoked his firearms license as a result.

Dozens of other people suspected of being Reichsbürger are also trying to get their weapons back, with around 70 cases pending in Bavaria alone.

The Reichsbürger movement is a loose grouping of extremists who do not recognize the authority of the German government or police and do not accept the constitution or its laws. Many refuse to pay taxes or fines, while some are also heavily armed.

The Interior Ministry estimates that some 19,000 people were active in the scene in 2018, noting a significant increase from the 16,500 estimated the year before.

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