Second wave of arrests expected as more German coup suspects identified

Federal police chief Holger Muench says number of suspects in the case has risen to 54

Police officers at one of the raids in Berlin. EPA
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A second wave of arrests could be imminent in Germany after 25 people were detained by police over an alleged coup plot that involved a minor prince and the establishment of a new government.

More than 3,000 law enforcement officers, including hundreds of special forces, participated in raids across 11 of the country’s 16 states.

Twenty-five people were taken into custody, including an aristocrat, a former lawmaker with the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, and at least one member of an elite military unit.

“Based on my experience, there is usually a second wave of arrests,” Georg Maier, the interior minister of the German state of Thuringia, said on Thursday.

Investigators said the group — many of them members of the Reichsbuerger, or Citizens of the Reich movement — planned to install Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss as the leader of a new state and found evidence that members had planned to storm the Bundestag and arrest members of parliament.

Holger Muench, head of the federal police office, said the number of suspects in the case now stood at 54, and that figure could rise.

“We have a dangerous mixture of people who are following irrational convictions, some with a lot of money, others in possession of weapons and a plan to launch attacks and expand their structures,” Mr Muench said.

The discovery of the alleged plot came as a shock in one of Europe's most stable democracies and its largest economy.

Police on Thursday searched the Waidmannsheil hunting lodge in Thuringia, said to belong to Prince Heinrich.

The town’s deputy mayor said locals had been sent a letter telling them passports issued by German authorities were not valid.

“All citizens of Bad Lobenstein received a letter this past summer in which we were told that we were not German because our passports were not German,” Andree Burkhardt said.

“We were then given the opportunity to apply for our German origin documents with the Reuss administration. This of course provoked a huge outcry among the population.”

Mr Maier singled out the AfD, which is in the state parliament, for becoming an interface for right-wing extremists and spreading what he called fantasies about toppling the state.

“People are scared, and the AfD takes advantage of that and offers simple solutions,” said Mr Maier, who is part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party.

The AfD in a statement on Wednesday condemned the far-right group's efforts and expressed confidence in the authorities' ability to bring clarity to the situation quickly and completely.

Prosecutors said the group was inspired by the deep state conspiracy theories of Germany's Reichsbuerger and QAnon, and inspired by the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021.

Members of the Reichsbuerger do not recognise modern-day Germany and its borders as a legitimate state.

Some are devoted to the old German Reich, or empire, under a monarchy, and some have Nazi ideas and believe the country is under military occupation.

No one from the House of Reuss or the prince's office responded to requests for comment.

The prince is a descendant of the royal House of Reuss in the eastern state of Thuringia. Aged 71, he has been working as a real estate developer and was arrested in the financial capital Frankfurt on Wednesday.

Nineteen of the alleged plotters were remanded into custody on Wednesday, while another six were set to go before a judge on Thursday, prosecutors said.

Updated: December 08, 2022, 3:42 PM