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Germany charges suspects in terrorist plot

Prosecutor: 5 planned to kidnap official, stir unrest, overthrow democracy by Loveday Morris and Vanessa Guinan-Bank The Washington Post | January 24, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

BERLIN -- Germany on Monday charged five suspects in a plot to kidnap the country's health minister, stir civil unrest and violently overthrow the government.

Germany's public prosecutor said the group had planned to blow up power infrastructure, "trigger civil-war-like conditions" and overthrow democracy. All five have been charged with being members of a terrorist group and planning "highly treasonable" acts against the government, it said.

Two of the suspects face additional charges of preparing a "serious act of violence that is dangerous to the state," while another also faces a charge of terrorist financing.

The group intended to use an actor to imitate the country's president or chancellor in a live television broadcast and announce that the federal government had been deposed and that the constitution of 1871 was in force again, the indictment said.

It was the latest twist in Germany's investigations into its extremist Reichsburger movement, which rejects the modern German state and wants to return to the days of the German Empire or Second Reich, founded in the late 19th century. The suspects also have links to the "corona protest scene" and had planned to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and subject him to a show trial, prosecutors have previously said.

It was the investigation into the cell and its members' arrests last year that led authorities to unearth a similar plot in December, security officials have said. In that case, a 71-year-old minor German aristocrat, Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuss, and 24 others were arrested and accused of plotting to overthrow the state and storm its parliament building, known as the Reichstag.

All suspects arrested in that case remain in custody as investigations continue, with one awaiting extradition from Italy, the prosecutor's office said.

German security authorities have warned of the increasingly violent strands of parts of the Reichsburger movement, which has long existed in Germany but whose members have often been written off as cranks.

The group of five suspects charged Monday -- four men and one woman -- had formed by mid-January of last year at the latest, prosecutors said. They believe it is an ideology largely shaped by the female suspect, named as Elisabeth R.

The group made "concrete preparations" to take over state power in Germany, according to the prosecutor's office. Suspects Sven B., Thomas K. and Thomas O. had organized themselves into a "military branch," while Elisabeth R. and Michael H. were involved in an "administrative branch," it said.

After damaging power supply facilities, the group planned to kidnap Lauterbach, "possibly after killing his bodyguards," the indictment said. The group hoped that the civil-war-like conditions that ensued would enable them to depose the government and install a new leader while they assumed executive roles.

Print Headline: Germany charges suspects in terrorist plot

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