German police set to make more arrests after coup plot thwarted

German authorities expect further arrests in the coming days as they investigate a far-right group that prosecutors say was preparing to overthrow the state and install a former member of a German royal family as national leader. A former parliamentary lawmaker from the far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD) was also among those detained, according to German prosecutors.

“Based on my experience, there is usually a second wave of arrests,” Georg Maier, the interior minister of the eastern German state of Thuringia, told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Thursday (Dec 8). The leader of the alleged plot and their would-be regent is a minor aristocrat called Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, a descendant of the royal House of Reuss in Thuringia. Aged 71, he has been working as a real estate developer.

Neither the House of Reuss nor Prince Reuss’ office responded to requests for comment. Twenty-five suspected members and supporters of the group were detained on Wednesday in raids involving some 3,000 security personnel that Maier described as unprecedented in modern German history.

Coup Plot Thwarted

Despite the development of right-wing parties in Germany, the uncovering of the alleged plot came as a surprise in one of Europe’s most stable democracies and largest economies. “It’s hard to understand: you read about such schemes from other nations, but for this to happen outside my front door?” Melanie Merle, who lives near the flat in Frankfurt’s financial district where Prince Reuss was arrested, agreed.

“Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely better than what they had planned,” she joked. Prosecutors stated the organisation was influenced by the deep state conspiracy theories of Germany’s Reichsbuerger and QAnon, whose supporters were among those jailed following the January 2021 storming of the US Capitol.

Members of the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) do not recognise modern-day Germany and its borders as a legitimate state. Some are devoted to the old German “Reich” (empire) under a monarchy, with some also sharing Nazi ideas and believing Germany is under military occupation.

Nineteen of the alleged plotters were remanded in custody on Wednesday, while another six were expected to go before a judge on Thursday, prosecutors said. The number of suspects in the case has now risen to 54, according to the head of the federal police office, Holger Muench, who told ARD on Thursday that the number could rise further.

Police raids on Wednesday discovered equipment ranging from protective vests to crossbows, rifles, and ammunition, as well as plans to establish a “homeland protection command” and evidence of recruitment, according to Muench.

“We have a dangerous mix of people with irrational convictions, some with a lot of money, others with weapons and a plan to launch attacks and expand their structures,” Muench said. Thuringia minister Maier singled out the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the state parliament for acting as a conduit for right-wing extremists and spreading “fantasies about overthrowing the state.”

“People are scared, and the AfD exploits that by offering simple solutions,” said Maier, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the AfD condemned the far-right group’s efforts and expressed confidence in the authorities’ ability to quickly and completely resolve the situation.

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