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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 17°C
Alamy Stock Photo The Reichstag building in Berlin
# Germany
Five Germans tried over plot to overthrow government in protest of Covid-19 restrictions
The group are said to have wanted to “trigger civil war-like conditions” in Germany.

FIVE GERMANS WENT on trial today over a far-right plot to kidnap the country’s health minister and overthrow the government in protest against Covid-19 restrictions.

Prosecutors say the four men and one woman wanted to “trigger civil war-like conditions in Germany by means of violence… to cause the overthrow of the government and parliamentary democracy”.

The plot included plans to abduct Health Minister Karl Lauterbach who was unpopular among far-right groups because of anti-Covid measures.

The only female suspect – named as Elisabeth R. – is thought to have been the ringleader.

The 75-year-old entered the courtroom on tiptoe and wearing no shoes, with two court officials holding her up by the arms.

As the indictment was read out, she sat with her head bent over a rubbish bin saying that she was “afraid of throwing up”.

Elisabeth R. is said to have convinced the group that the German empire of the 19th century was the country’s true system of government, and an authoritarian ruling order should be re-established.

Such beliefs are typical of the far-right Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) movement, which rejects Germany’s democratic institutions and has attracted a growing number of followers.

“In order to be able to put her ideas into practice, R. sought out persons who were prepared to depose the government by force,” prosecutor Wolfgang Barrot told the court.

Social polarisation

The group planned to trigger a nationwide blackout by damaging power lines before abducting Lauterbach, killing his bodyguards if necessary, according to prosecutors.

They then wanted to call a special assembly in Berlin to publicly depose the government and appoint a new leader.

According to the indictment, they had tried to contact Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for support for their new government.

Lauterbach today called for “tough” sentences for the suspects to help “deter copycats”.

Threats and even murder plots against politicians are on the rise thanks to “strong social polarisation” in German society, especially on online platforms, he said.

“Society continues to radicalise in extreme ways… It’s not letting up. We will have even bigger problems,” he told Der Spiegel magazine.

Long dismissed by critics as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radicalised in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat.

Another far-right group planning to overthrow the government — including an ex-MP and aristocrat — was uncovered in December, though authorities have not linked that group to the one that plotted to abduct Lauterbach.

© AFP 2023

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