German Group Goes on Trial for Allegedly Plotting Coup

The second of three trials against a far-right group suspected of plotting to overthrow the German government began last Tuesday in a special courthouse outside of Frankfurt.

The nine defendants include the highest-profile members of the group, like Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, the man the plotters allegedly planned to install as the provisional leader of Germany following their coup; and Judge Birgit Malsack-Winkelmann, a former lawmaker from Germany’s far-right AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) party, who would have become Justice Minister.

The defendants are among those arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids across the country in late December 2022.

In total, 27 people were charged in the alleged plot, but one of the men set to appear in court last week died before the trial.

A trial in Stuttgart against the nine defendants considered part of the “military arm” of the coup began in late April. The third and final trial against the remaining eight defendants will begin on June 18 in Munich.

Most of the defendants in the Frankfurt trial are charged with high treason and terrorism for their role in the terrorist group that was founded in 2021 to remove “by force” the “existing state order in Germany.”

Prosecutors allege that Reuss and his co-defendant, former German paratrooper Rüdiger van Pescatore, were the ringleaders of the group.

The defendants are accused of believing in various “conspiracy myths” including Q-Anon and Reichsbürger (Reich Citizens) movements and believe that the German government is controlled by a “deep state.”

In a May 21 statement, Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the defendants were not “harmless cranks” but were “dangerous terror suspects.”

Prosecutors allege that the group’s plan included storming Parliament and arresting lawmakers and had amassed weapons and cash to carry out their coup. Once the government was overthrown, the group planned to establish a new order through negotiations, primarily with the Russian Federation.

One of the nine defendants in the Frankfurt trial is a Russian national who allegedly arranged a meeting between Reuss and the Russian consulate in Leipzig. According to prosecutors, Reuss allegedly sought to gain the Kremlin’s support for the plan.