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Reichsbürger conspirators planned new army for coup

December 13, 2022

Germany's Bundestag held sessions to debate investigation into a coup, planned by far-right extremists. Prosecutors said the suspects planned to set up 280 armed units across Germany to facilitate the plot.

Police secures the area in Berlin after 25 suspected members and supporters of a far-right group were detained during raids across Germany
German authorities arrested 25 people and secured scores of stockpiled weapons in last week's raidsImage: CHRISTIAN MANG/REUTERS

Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, held closed-door sessions on Monday to debate investigations into a coup plot by extremists linked to the far-right Reichsbürger movement and QAnon conspiracy theorists.

The revelations about the group's alleged plot to overthrow Germany's government have sparked widespread outrage, with a former member of parliament among those accused of taking part.

What was happening in parliament?

On Monday, three special committee sessions were held in the Bundestag behind closed doors.

The committees legal and interior affairs have held meetings for Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government and federal prosecutors to deliver "reports and results" from the raids, and provide further information on the operations.

In a third session, lawmakers posed questions to the Parliamentary Oversight Panel, which is responsible for scrutinizing Germany's domestic and foreign intelligence services.

The information received in the meetings, as well as the debate among lawmakers, is not expected to be made public. However, Scholz's government will publicly face questions from lawmakers on Wednesday during the Bundestag's next plenary meeting.

What did prosecutors say?

Prosecutors said the suspects planned to set up 280 armed units across Germany that would have been tasked with "arresting and executing" people after a coup.

In the states of Saxony, Thuringia, and Baden-Württemberg, concrete preparations had already been made, lawmakers said.

"There were obviously plans that, based on the scale of their intentions against our liberal democracy, are shocking," said Konstantin von Notz, a Green Party lawmaker.

Prosecutors also briefed lawmakers about seizing a large number of "non-disclosure agreements" by people the alleged plotters had tried to recruit.

What information are MPs seeking?

Lawmakers from the opposition, center-right Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) requested the special sessions on Monday. CDU politician Günter Krings said they were necessarz to acquire more detailed information about the raids and investigations.

"We want to know from the authorities and from the government how concrete the plans were," Krings told local public broadcaster RBB.

He added that the government needs to provide more information about "how threatening the situation was and how it could potentially develop further" considering that further suspects may be at large.

He said lawmakers want to know whether certain laws need to be changed to address the threat.

Some legislators have called for Germany's weapons laws to be tightened as a consequence of the planned coup, but conservative members of parliament have been hesitant.

Conservatives have also called for investigations into whether members of the media were informed of the raids in advance.

What happened during the raids?

Last Wednesday, German authorities launched nationwide raids targeting a right-wing terrorist group with links to the Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich) movement.

Members of the movement believe deep-state conspiracy theories that deny the existence of Germany's post-World War II Federal Republic and reject the authority of the German government. They claim that the 1937 borders of the German empire still exist.

A total of 25 suspects were arrested in the raids. Prosecutors said the group had concrete plans for an "armed attack" on the German government, with the aim to stage a coup and install new leaders.

Over 130 properties were searched, and there are 27 other suspects who have not been detained. Authorities said the number of suspects could rise further.

According to prosecutors, the group made contact with Russian officials seeking to establish a new order in Germany once the Berlin government was overthrown. They also began stockpiling weapons.

Far-right threat in Germany: Ralf Stegner speaks to DW

What do we know about the suspects?

One of the suspects is a sitting Berlin judge who was also a former member of parliament with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD currently hold 79 seats in the Bundestag's 736-seat parliament — making them the second-largest opposition group after the conservative CDU/CSU bloc.

The former MP's arrest, in particular, is of particular concern for lawmakers.

Authorities also detained the right-wing terror cell's co-leader, aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss. The 71-year-old planned to be installed as the new leader of Germany and sought Kremlin support. Heinrich XIII is alleged to have initiated contact with a Russian woman, who was also arrested in the raids, to secure Russian support.

Other suspects included former and current members of the German military.

Authorities said that while the coup plot was unlikely to have succeeded, the group was prepared to use violence.

dh, rs/rt (dpa, AFP)

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