German soldier arrested after threats to Cabinet over Covid rules

Defence ministry condemns 'threats to rule of law' in footage posted on Telegram

The soldier's arrest followed raids earlier in December, pictured, over what police said was a plot by anti-vaccination activists to murder a politician. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A German soldier has been arrested after footage circulated that appeared to show him threatening the government over Covid-19 restrictions.

The video posted on the Telegram messaging service on Thursday showed a self-described army sergeant giving ministers an ultimatum to scrap coronavirus measures and compulsory vaccinations for troops.

“This is a warning,” he said.

“You have until tomorrow to make a statement and step back from these crazy, unconstitutional intentions.”

After online posts which invoked a constitutional right of resistance, the man said he had “warned every politician in the government of their fate”.

Another video appeared to show him calling for bodies of traitors to be strewn in the fields.

The Ministry of Defence said it was investigating footage showing “unacceptable threats against the rule of law” made by a member of the military.

Later on Thursday, police in Munich said they had arrested a Bundeswehr – the Armed forces of Germany – soldier on suspicion of inciting criminal acts.

It followed separate posts on Telegram which called for members of the military to demonstrate in Munich against the restrictions.

The soldier was released under investigation on Friday, with Bavarian prosecutors giving their approval to a continued probe.

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht issued a statement saying the military was for “upstanding people who are firmly rooted in our constitution”.

“Anyone who doesn’t share those values has no business in our army,” she said, without directly mentioning the arrest.

This is the latest case of radical Covid protests causing concern in Germany, after extreme-right groups took part in demonstrations.

Dissenters have come under scrutiny for voicing conspiracy theories, spreading anti-Semitic statements and comparing Covid policies to the Nazi dictatorship. This month, five properties were raided over an alleged plot by anti-vaccination activists to kill a politician.

In February, an official report uncovered 477 incidents linked to far-right extremism in the German military over the previous year.

But junior minister Thomas Hitschler paid tribute on Thursday to what he said were the majority of soldiers who fought for democracy and the rule of law.

“You are the overwhelming majority and we should not yield an inch to the others,” he said.

The army brought in compulsory vaccinations in November. Broader measures, including a 10-person limit on social gatherings, came into effect this week to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Updated: December 31, 2021, 2:36 PM