German police swoop on suspected extremists ‘plotting to undermine government’


BERLIN — German authorities announced on Thursday they were searching 20 homes belonging to suspected far-right conspiracy plotters whom they say were planning to “destabilize” the communications of state administrations.

Among other things, the suspects are accused of “trying to block the communication channels of public authorities” by “contacting them in a targeted and massive manner”, Munich’s public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The people targeted are suspected of belonging to the far-right Reichsbürger movement, which brings together various groups of conspiracy theorists and extremists who do not recognise the legitimacy of German institutions.

The police seized computers, laptops and mobile phones.

The public prosecutor’s office explained that the searches, carried out in eight regions, are part of an investigation that began in early 2021, when the police identified several channels on the Telegram platform carrying “conspiracy theories and theories typical of the Reichsbürger”.

From August 2021, these channels featured calls for action against “alleged victims of the state”. Their administrators then began to organise “mass contacts with authorities by telephone and e-mail”.

According to the public prosecutor, their principal aim was to “destabilise the Federal Republic of Germany and its public institutions and prevent, or at least complicate” their proper functioning.

Employees of the targeted authorities were inundated with conspiracy theories and were also “insulted and sometimes threatened with death”.

Police officers bundle Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss into a police vehicle during a raid against the Reichsbürger movement in December 2022.

A 58-year-old man suspected of running one of the incriminating channels was arrested in November 2021. He was charged in April 2022 with “creating a criminal organisation and inciting hatred”.

The Reichsbürger movement has existed since the 1980s, but gained new momentum in reaction to the health restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In December 2022, the authorities dismantled an armed group of the same persuasion that had set itself the goal of overthrowing Germany’s democratic institutions.

They included a prince, former elite soldiers and a former far-right MP.

The movement is thought to have around 20,000 members across Germany and beyond, attracting different strains of anti-establishment and right-wing ideology, including anger at the nature of the post-WWII federal republic and nostalgia for a Germany long gone.

While some of the movement’s followers idealise the Third Reich, the plotters arrested last year were focused on manifesting a return of the Second Reich, a monarchy formed in 1871 and overthrown after the First World War.

Other Reichsbürger members are more conspiratorial and reactionary in their thinking, rejecting modern state structures and refusing to pay taxes, take part in a census, or carry ID cards. — Euronews

Source link