Trial for Alleged Far-Right Coup Plot Begins in Germany: What to Know

By John Mercury April 30, 2024

Nearly a year and a half after police and intelligence officers in Germany uncovered a plot to overthrow the country’s government and replace its chancellor, the first of three trials in the sprawling case began on Monday in Stuttgart.

Most of the would-be insurrectionists were arrested in December 2022, when heavily armed German police officers stormed houses, apartments, offices and a remote royal hunting lodge and made dozens of arrests. Those eventually charged included a dentist, a clairvoyant, an amateur pilot and a man running a large QAnon social media group. The German authorities contend that their figurehead was Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, an obscure and conspiracy-minded aristocrat who would have been made chancellor if the coup had succeeded.

Despite that idiosyncratic membership, the group was well organized and dangerous, investigators said. Some of its members were former officers trained by German elite military forces. One was a judge turned far-right lawmaker with Alternative for Germany, the surging populist party known as the AfD. The police said the group had stashed more than a half-million dollars in gold and cash; amassed hundreds of firearms, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and a cache of explosives; and secured satellite phones to communicate once it disabled national communications networks.

“All the satirical elements that are naturally present in this group — elements of QAnon, the belief in U.F.O.s, esotericism, the idea of being able to overthrow the system of the Federal Republic of Germany — should not distract from the fact that this group posed a grave potential threat,” said Jan Rathje, a member of a nongovernmental organization that monitors conspiracy theories and right-wing extremism.

In a wood-paneled courtroom in Stuttgart on Monday, federal prosecutors started trying to prove that the group came dangerously close to launching an attack on the democratic foundation of Europe’s largest country.

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