Plans to overthrow suspected terrorist group: process begins

The trial against alleged members of the group “United Patriots”, who are said to have planned a coup in Germany including the kidnapping of Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD), begins today in the Koblenz Higher Regional Court.

The four men, aged 44 to 56, and a 75-year-old woman are accused of founding or being a member of a domestic terrorist organization and preparing a treasonable operation against the federal government. The indictment is scheduled to be read out on the first day of the trial. The quintet was arrested last year and is in custody.

trigger “civil war-like conditions”.

According to the prosecution, the group, which investigators assign to the “Reichsbürger” milieu, is said to have worked out a three-stage plan: First, a power failure lasting at least two weeks should be caused by explosive attacks. Lauterbach was then to be kidnapped by force – “possibly after killing his bodyguards,” according to the Higher Regional Court. In the “civil war-like conditions” that were then allegedly triggered, the accused are said to have planned a meeting in Berlin to depose the government and appoint new “leaders”.

Nothing came of the group’s alleged plans – they got involved with an undercover agent when buying a gun. The four men were arrested in April 2022 at various locations in Germany. Firearms and ammunition, cash, gold bullion, silver coins and foreign currency were seized during nationwide searches.

The 75-year-old retired teacher was arrested in Saxony in mid-October 2022. She is said to have pushed in particular for the timely “restoration of the German Reich’s ability to act”, as can be seen from a decision by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) published yesterday. She also wrote several documents that would have been needed for the group’s actions: letters to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as an “arrest warrant” against Lauterbach.

Lauterbach trusts in the rule of law

“Proceedings and history have strengthened my confidence in our rule of law. For that I am very grateful to the officers involved in the arrest and my bodyguards who are looking out for me. They are risking their lives for us,” Lauterbach told the editorial network Germany.

The alleged perpetrators “dramatically overestimated their own possibilities”. “It is absurd to think that a government could fall just because one of its ministers was shot. In my work, I don’t let these incidents bother me. But it worries me that such groups can form at any time and also have access to weapons.”

Lauterbach told the “Spiegel” about the process: “I wish for hard, fair judgments.” Only hard judgments could deter imitators.

Who had which role?

The process also looks at how far the plans had progressed and who had a leading role in the group. “What should be taken seriously is when people start arming themselves, and especially arming themselves illegally, and making plans that just need to be implemented,” said Jan Rathje, a political scientist at the Center for Monitoring, Analysis and Strategy (CeMAS), which has been dealing with right-wing extremism and sovereignty of “Reich citizens” for years.

Referring to the age of the 75-year-old accused, he said: “One should not downplay the fact that older people can also be capable of terrorist acts, even if it’s just that they get involved in the group planning.”

QAnon Conspiracy Stories

During the pandemic and the protests against the corona measures, different milieus moved closer together. They would have the federal government as a shared enemy. “What is special about this case is that these sovereignist groups have also integrated elements of the US conspiracy narratives surrounding QAnon,” says Rathje. “We have not yet observed this in investigations into sovereignist groups.”

“The security situation in Germany remains extremely tense,” stressed the Parliamentary Secretary of the Greens parliamentary group, Irene Mihalic, and the Greens domestic politician Misbah Khan. The greatest threat is right-wing extremism driven by conspiracy ideologies. “Against this background, there is an urgent need for the Federal Ministry of the Interior to develop an overall strategy.” The entire federal government must be involved.

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