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Reichsbürger trial: Man sentenced to life for murder

October 23, 2017

A 50-year-old German has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a police officer. The man was allegedly a member of the Reichsbürger extremist group, which rejects the legitimacy of the German state.

Wolfgang P. in court
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Karmann

A court in Nuremberg sentenced an alleged member of the far-right Reichsbürger movement to life in jail on Monday for the murder of a police officer.

On October 19 last year, Wolfgang P. fired on special police forces who had raided his home in the Bavarian municipality of Georgensgmünd. The officers were seeking to confiscate his cache of about 30 hunting weapons because local authorities no longer considered him fit to handle them.

Read more: German military investigating right-wing extremism within its ranks

A 32-year-old officer was killed and two others wounded. Wolfgang P. was charged with one count of murder, three of attempted murder and two of serious bodily harm.

Public prosecutor Matthias Held accused the suspect of having long planned an attack on police officers. During the ambush, he shot at the officers 11 times with the goal of injuring and killing as many of them as possible, the prosecutor said, calling for a life sentence and a statement emphasizing the severity of the crime.

Defense lawyer Susanne Koller refuted that accusation and criticized the raid as "amateurish" and unnecessary. She denied he had intent to murder and issued a plea for negligent homicide, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Reichsbürger in the spotlight

The case focused attention on the Reichsbürger, which roughly translates as "Citizens of the Reich," a loose and diverse group of extremists who reject the authority of the modern Federal Republic of Germany. They subscribe to the conspiracy theory that since Germany never signed a peace treaty with the Allies at the end of World War II, the 1937 or 1871 borders of the German Empire still exist. They believe today's Germany is an administrative construct still occupied by the Western powers.

Read more: Reichsbürger theories debunked

They do not recognize any state apparatus, often refusing to pay tax. They often print their own passports and driver's licenses and swamp local authorities with lawsuits. Their theories have been disproven.

They number about 15,000, according to intelligence officials. Of those, about 900 have been identified as far-right extremists and 1,000 have a license to own firearms. Many ascribe to anti-Semitic, far-right populist or Nazi ideologies. There has been concern that some Reichsbürger have made their way into the police force.

se/rt  (dpa, AFP)

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.