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Germany: the trial of nine “Citizens of the Reich” conspirators begins this Monday

This Monday, April 29 marks the start of a large-scale trial in Germany: nine alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” will be heard by the Stuttgart court.

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Germany: the trial of nine “Citizens of the Reich” conspirators begins this Monday

This Monday, April 29 marks the start of a large-scale trial in Germany: nine alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” will be heard by the Stuttgart court. All are accused of being part of a terrorist organization and of high treason for having fomented a coup attempt in 2022. Among the accused is a man who injured two police officers during a search on March 22, 2023.

48 days of hearings are planned for this trial which is expected to last until 2025. 27 people are accused in total. Three district courts in Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main and Munich will judge the case simultaneously, a first in Germany. A look back at the events that led to this unprecedented affair.

The case dates back to December 7, 2022, when German police launched the largest anti-terrorist operation of the post-war period. Nearly 3,000 police officers carry out searches of suspected members of the armed militia of the small group “Citizens of the Reich”. 27 people are charged. Among them: a cook, a lawyer, a former MP from the far-right AfD party, former soldiers of the Bundeswehr (German army)... and Prince Henry XIII of Reuss, from a line of Thuringian sovereigns. . This 72-year-old man, a real estate entrepreneur in Frankfurt am Main, is suspected of being the mastermind and instigator of the attempted coup d'état, intended to bring him to power, along with around twenty other far-right conspiracy theorists. A descendant of a former royal family, his castle in Thuringia was also searched. He will be tried on May 21 in Frankfurt am Main.

From that moment on, the German police repeatedly searched the homes of suspected members of the “Citizens of the Reich”. One of the accused, Markus L., who will appear in Stuttgart this Monday, seriously injured two police officers with an automatic weapon during the search of his home on March 22, 2023 in Reutlingen.

These members of the alleged “armed militia” of “Reich Citizens” are said to have planned to overthrow the Bundestag. To do this, they would have organized secret meetings to learn how to shoot, reports Spiegel. They would have deliberately agreed to kill people to realize their project. According to an investigation by the public broadcaster ARD, it turned out that their plans to create “a new government” were very concrete: some members of the small group had even assigned themselves functions for “their state”. At its head, therefore, Prince Henry XIII. At Justice, former AfD MP Birgit Malsack-Winkemann.

The movement of “Reich citizens”, Reichsbürger in German, was created in the 1980s. The small group of Reich citizens around Prince Henry XIII would have been created in 2021.

Its members do not recognize the German federal state. They consider that the Empire has not disappeared. Some refuse to pay taxes and do not have an identity card. According to the Constitutional Protection Service, the group has nearly 20,000 members in total, including 2,300 considered violent. The small group has nearly 380 firearms, 350 knives, nearly 500 additional weapons as well as 148,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

The typical profile of a member of this group is quite difficult to define: the group includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and anti-Semitic figures. Most come from the ranks of the far right.

The national press paints a portrait of a very worrying small group, particularly because of its possession of weapons. The liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung thus believes that it would be “naive” to consider “citizens of the Reich” as simple madmen. This is also the point of view of the Stuttgart court: “They are not nice uncles with slightly crazy ideas,” asserts its president, magistrate Andreas Singer, to the local newspaper Zeitungsverlag Waiblingen.

One thing is certain: it’s a big trial ahead. The indictment alone is 600 pages long and the files span 700 binders, containing no less than 400,000 sheets.

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