Germany detains 3 more suspects linked to ‘Reich Citizens’ coup plot
Associated Press May 23, 2023
BERLIN — Germany's federal prosecutor's office said Tuesday that criminal police have detained three more suspected far-right extremists who are linked to an alleged plot by the Reichsbuerger, or Reich Citizens, movement to topple the country's government.
The three suspects, who were only identified as Johanna F.-J., Hans-Joachim H. and Steffen W. in line with German privacy rules, were detained Monday evening in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
The defendants are suspected of membership in a terrorist organization, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
In December, German police detained 25 people including a self-styled prince, a retired paratrooper and a former judge who are accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the government.
Adherents of the Reich Citizens movement reject Germany's postwar constitution and have called for bringing down the government.
Authorities say the three people who were arrested Monday evening were linked in different ways to the suspects of the alleged coup attempt.
Johanna F.J. is suspected of having been active in the association since May 2022, participating in several meetings with members of the leadership, during which the goals and organization of the group were discussed. In addition, she allegedly sought contact with a Russian consul general and subsequently met with him twice. The talks were intended to obtain support for the association's actions, prosecutors say.
Hans-Joachim H. is suspected of having been active for the group from the very beginning, providing it with financial contributions totaling more than 140,000 euros ($151,000). In addition, he allegedly actively participated in conspiratorial meetings, in events to recruit new members and in so-called sponsor meetings.
Steffen W. is suspected of having joined the association no later than July 2022, and to have assumed a leading role in a so-called homeland security company, in which he assumed the function of a military officer. The defendant allegedly participated in several coordination meetings. His task was to recruit personnel for his area of responsibility and to train them militarily, prosecutors said.
German security agencies have disrupted several plots in recent years by small groups linked to the Reich Citizens movement accused of planning attacks on critical infrastructure, government officials and even the national parliament. While it is unclear how far advanced such plans were, authorities have expressed alarm that the alleged plotters had acquired weapons and included people who aren't usually on the radar of security agencies, such as judges and police officers.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency warned of a rise in anti-government extremism.
Thomas Haldenwang told the AP that coup plots such as those disrupted last year likely won't be the last as some "are again talking about a 'Day X' when certain things are meant to happen."
"We are monitoring such efforts very intensively, very carefully, and I'm certain that we will be able to intervene in time together with other security agencies," he said. "But I can't completely rule out that groups will forms under the radar of the security agencies."