Some 3,000 police officers carried out raids at 130 sites in 11 of Germany’s 16 states on Wednesday (December 7) against suspected far-right extremists who allegedly sought to overthrow the government in an armed coup. Officials said 25 people were detained.
Federal prosecutors said the action was targeted at the adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens Movement, some of whose members reject Germany’s postwar constitution, and have called for bringing down the government.
The group allegedly believed in a “conglomerate of conspiracy theories consisting of narratives from the so-called Reich Citizens as well as QAnon ideology”, according to an official statement. German prosecutors have said that members of the group believe that Germany is ruled by a so-called “deep state”, similar to the baseless narrative created by QAnon about the United States.
Prosecutors said 22 German citizens were detained on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organisation”. Three other people, including a Russian citizen, were held on suspicion of supporting the organisation, they said.
Separately, one person was detained in the Austrian town of Kitzbuehel and another in the Italian city of Perugia, the prosecutors said.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the raids as an “anti-terrorism operation”, adding that the suspects may have planned an armed attack on institutions of the state. Germany’s top security official said the group was “driven by violent coup fantasies and conspiracy ideologies”.
Prosecutors said those detained had allegedly formed a “terrorist organization with the goal of overturning the existing state order in Germany and replace it with their own form of state, which was already in the course of being founded”.
They were aware their aim could only be achieved by military means and with force, prosecutors said. Some of the group’s members had made “concrete preparations” to storm Germany’s federal parliament with a small armed group, according to prosecutors. “The details (of this plan) still need to be investigated” to determine whether any of the suspects can be charged with treason, they said.
Prosecutors identified the suspected ringleaders as Heinrich XIII P. R. and Ruediger v. P., giving only part of their names in line with German privacy rules. The German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that Heinrich was a well-known 71-year-old member of a minor German noble family, while Ruediger was a 69-year-old former paratrooper.
Federal prosecutors said the group had planned to install Heinrich as Germany’s new leader, and that this individual had contacted Russian officials with the aim of negotiating a new order in the country once the German government was overthrown.
Heinrich was allegedly assisted in this project by a Russian woman identified as Vitalia B. “According to current investigations there is no indication however that the persons contacted responded positively to his request,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that apart from a council of leaders, or Rat, the group had tasked several members with the formation of an armed wing. Led by Ruediger v. P., they planned to obtain weapons and conduct firearms training.
Prosecutors identified another individual detained by police as Birgit M.-W. Der Spiegel reported she is a judge and former lawmaker with the far-right Alternative for Germany party. The party, known by its German acronym AfD, has increasingly come under scrutiny by German security services due to its ties with extremists.
AfD’s co-leaders Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel condemned the reported plans, which they said they had only learned of through the media.“We have full confidence in the authorities involved and demand a swift and comprehensive investigation,” they said in a statement.