German authorities said Wednesday that they had dismantled a QAnon-inspired terrorist organization on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government.
Federal prosecutors said 25 people were arrested early in the morning, 22 of them suspected of conspiring to foment the coup. Their alleged plan included an armed raid on Congress. Three others, including a Russian living in Germany, are suspected of supporting the group, prosecutors said.
More than 3,000 police officers, including special forces, raided 150 facilities in Germany, Italy, and Austria.
“As far as we know, this organization has set itself the goal of overthrowing Germany’s existing liberal democratic order through violence and military means,” federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters.
The far-right group, which suspected a former elite paratrooper commander for its leadership, is seeking to recruit members of the police and military, and to set up terrorist cells across Germany to help establish and maintain a military government. There was a public prosecutor.
“The suspects, united, deeply rejected the Federal Republic of Germany, which over time decided to launch a violent coup for which they had specially prepared,” the prosecutor said. said the official.
“Members of the organization understood that their efforts could only be realized through the use of military means and violence against representatives of the state, which included committing murder.”
“Those who have been arrested subscribe to a conspiracy myth made up of different narratives of Reichsbürger and QAnon ideologies,” Frank said.
QAnon is a far-right, loosely organized network and community of believers that embrace a variety of outlandish and unfounded beliefs. It spread from the United States to the rest of the world and is associated with the attacks on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The German Reichsbürger, or Reich Citizen Movement, does not recognize the authority of the post-war government. Members printed their passports and other documents and set up their own schools. Some factions aim to rebuild the German Empire, which was dismantled after World War I.
Outside the United States, the largest subscriber base for QAnon online channels is in Germany, according to several assessments by extremism researchers. The conspiracy has spread rapidly since 2020, especially among critics of the government’s restrictions on the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.
The agency considers its ideology to be a potential source of violence, given its strong anti-Semitic message, justification for violence, and opposition to the state. August 2020, Pandemic Limits Some of the demonstrators, who carried ‘Q’ banners, attempted to storm the Capitol, the home of the Houses of Parliament, but were thwarted by police.
There was no indication that the suspected cell members were in contact with US QAnon supporters.
Those detained Wednesday included a sergeant serving at Germany’s special military command, KSK, a former lawmaker, and several former military personnel, including two colonels, officials said.
One of the alleged ringleaders was named by prosecutors as Heinrich XIII PR. Der Spiegel News His Weekly website and other German news publications have identified the man as Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss, a 71-year-old prince and known far-right extremist. In his speech at the conference posted on his YouTube in 2019, Reuss endorsed anti-Semitic views and conspiracies about historical events and German politics.
Calls to a number claiming to be the Prince’s website went unanswered and his lawyer could not be identified.
Another alleged co-conspirator was identified by prosecutors as Birgit M.-W. Der Spiegel and other German publications said the suspect was Birgit Marzac Winckemann, 58, a Berlin judge and former parliamentarian of the Alternative for Nationalist Germany party.
A lawyer who has represented Marsac Winkemann in the past declined to comment.
Marsac Winkemann resumed his job as a judge in March after leaving parliament. The Berlin state government later called for her to be removed from the bench, alleging she promoted an extremist position online and as a lawmaker. It rejected the government’s request for violations.
Marsak Winkemann was temporarily suspended as a judge on Wednesday following the intervention of the president of the Berlin District Court, a court spokeswoman wrote in an email Wednesday. rice field.
Prosecutor Frank said the eight arrested were taken into custody by a judge.
One of the arrested suspects was a former police officer involved in securing a Jewish site in Lower Saxony, Germany, according to the nonprofit American Jewish Commission.
“We have to prove that there is no security risk. [for these sites]’, the organization said in a tweet.
The suspected conspirators set up several chat channels, mainly on the social network Telegram, and congregated at a property owned by one of them, officials said.
Weapons were secured during the investigation, and investigators are investigating a plot by the suspects to storm the German parliament and arrest members of parliament who hoped to bring about the downfall of the German government.
However, it remains unclear whether the group planned an imminent attack or had the ability to stage a coup in a nation of 84 million people. In addition to the 25 people detained, 27 suspects have yet to be arrested, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the suspects met in a format called a council. This was a mock government cabinet led by Mr. Reuss and a designated cabinet, which was backed by the military. This institution was intended to govern Germany, supported by an army of several retired officers in their 60s and an active duty soldier.
Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Feser said: “The terrorist organization uncovered today was driven by an ideology of violent takeover illusions and conspiracies.” The police raid was carried out in extremely dangerous conditions, but fortunately no one was injured.
Fazer said it was “especially bitter” that the former lawmaker was involved in the conspiracy allegations.
Prosecutors said one of the alleged leaders had been in contact with Russian representatives in Germany to facilitate the planned takeover, and Russian officials responded positively to his advances. He added that there was no evidence. A Russian citizen arrested as a helper to the group is suspected of facilitating such contacts.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian government was not involved and only learned of the incident from media reports.
The Russian embassy in Berlin said it learned of the raid on the news, but that the Russian citizens involved were unaware. The Russian diplomatic mission to Germany has not been in contact with members of terrorist organizations, the embassy said.
Germany has more than 2,100 supporters of the Reichsbürger movement, including 2,100 potentially violent supporters, according to the latest annual report of Germany’s national intelligence service.
Several police officers and members of the military have been arrested in the past in raids associated with Reichsbürger and similar groups. Members of groups like the military, security services and law enforcement agencies are in the minority, but due to Germany’s Nazi past, the existence of rogue networks within the security services is a very sensitive issue.
The group that failed Wednesday was founded around November 2021 and was driven by the belief that Germany was ruled by the so-called “Deep State” and would soon be liberated by the so-called “Alliance”. Prosecutors said government and military officials from various countries, including the United States and Russia, attended.
The group is suspected of planning an armed attack on government institutions, said German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann.
“Democracy is defending itself,” Bushman tweeted Wednesday.
Write to Bojan Pancevski at email@example.com.
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