Five Germans charged over coup plot

Published January 24, 2023

BERLIN: Five Germans have been charged with treason over a far-right plot to overthrow the government that included plans to abduct the health minister, prosecutors said on Monday.

The four men and a woman were arrested in recent months over the plot, with Health Minister Karl Lauterbach — unpopular among far-right groups because of anti-Covid measures — confirming that he was targeted.

They were charged on Jan 16 and face counts ranging from founding a domestic terror group to preparing a treasonous act and violating weapons laws, the federal prosecutors’ office said. The group aimed to “trigger civil war-like conditions in Germany by means of violence... to cause the overthrow of the government and parliamentary democracy,” it said in a statement. The suspects accepted that fatalities could result from the attempted overthrow, it added.

It said the group’s ideology was “shaped” by the woman charged — identified only as Elisabeth R. — and was centred on the belief that the modern German state was not legitimate. Instead, they claimed that the German empire of the 19th century was the country’s true system of government, and that an authoritarian ruling order should be re-established.—AFP

Their beliefs chime with those of the far-right Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) movement, which reject Germany’s democratic institutions and has attracted a growing number of followers.

The five members organised themselves into “miliary” and “administrative” arms to plan the coup, prosecutors said. It involved triggering a “long-lasting, nationwide blackout by damaging or destroying important power supply facilities”, and then abducting Lauterbach, with his bodyguards killed if necessary. A special assembly would then be called in Berlin to publicly depose the government and appoint a new leader, prosecutors said. They had sought support via the Telegram messaging app.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2023

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