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Germany: Prince Reuss denies guilt at 'Reichsbürger' trial

June 28, 2024

In the Frankfurt terror trial involving the far-right "Reichsbürger" group, alleged coup-plot ringleader Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss has testified for the first time. He distanced himself from the accusations.

Heinrich XIII. Prinz Reuss in court
Reuss, who was earmarked to become head of state after a coup, said that he rejected violence Image: Boris Roessler/dpa-POOL/picture alliance

One of the alleged ringleaders of the Citizens of the Reich (Reichsbürger) group, Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, testified in court for the first time on Friday.

Prosecutors claim the suspects in the case planned a violent overthrow of the German government to upend democracy.

What Reuss said to the court

On the eleventh day of the trial of him and eight other defendants, Frankfurt real estate agent Reuss declared that he was a strict opponent of violence.

"Of course I reject violence, but the prosecution is trying to accuse me of the opposite," said the 72-year-old on Friday before the Higher Regional Court. 

The 72-year-old sat in the middle of the courtroom wearing a dark blue suit. In a two-hour-long account, Reuss mainly gave an insight into his personal circumstances and career.

His parents fled from Thuringia to Hesse during the Second World War. Reuss was born in Büdingen in 1951 — the fifth of six siblings. He spoke of "violations of his psyche and soul" by teachers.

The DPA news agency reported that, with his family present and visibly moved, Reuss found it visibly difficult to speak.

"My condition is unstable, I don't know what's happening, I honestly can't tell you what's going on," he told presiding judge Jürgen Bonk, who interrupted the session three times.

The far-right Reichsbürger movement claims the historical German Reich, founded in 1871 with an emperor at the head, continues to exist and did not end with Germany's defeats following either World War I or World War II. Most members deem both subsequent successor states — the Weimar Republic (still formally known as the German Reich) and then the former West Germany, as it was at its 1949 inception — to be invalid.

The coup plot was revealed after large-scale anti-terrorism raids in December 2022.

What did Reuss say about the plot?

Reuss repeatedly emphasized that he abhorred violence and was often ill and in poor health.

"How I am being accused of being close to the Nazi regime remains a mystery to me. I have nothing to do with it," said Reuss, who did not directly address the case details. He referred to the matter and the conspirators' beliefs in just one sentence — as a "Trojan horse" that had not done anything. 

Nine defendants are accused of being members of a terrorist group in the Frankfurt case investigating the alleged ringleaders of the coup plan. 

The case has been split into several trials, mainly due to the large number of defendants. 

Eight defendants in Munich are accused of membership in, and in some cases founding, a terrorist organization and of preparing a so-called high treason enterprise.

In Stuttgart, the federal prosecutor's office has indicted alleged members of the group's "military arm."

rc/msh (dpa, epd)