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Trial begins for 9 in Germany over alleged coup plot

A trial has opened in Germany for nine members of the Reich Citizens movement, who have called for bringing down the government and subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Nine people charged with terrorism in connection with an alleged far-right plot to topple the German government went on trial Monday in one of three linked cases.

The trial opening in Stuttgart is the first to open in relation to the purported conspiracy, which came to light in late 2022. It is focused on those defendants of the Reich Citizens group who allegedly were part of its so-called military arm, German news agency dpa reported.

Federal prosecutors in December filed terrorism charges against a total of 27 people, one of whom has since died.

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Nine other suspects, among them a self-styled prince and a former far-right lawmaker, will go on trial on May 21 at a Frankfurt state court in the most prominent of the three cases. The other eight will go on trial in Munich on June 18.

The Frankfurt case includes Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, whom the group allegedly planned to install as Germany’s provisional new leader; Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a judge and former lawmaker with the far-right Alternative for Germany party; and a retired paratrooper.

The proceedings of the three cases are expected to last well into 2025.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on ZDF public television that the trial "shows the strength of our rule of law that the largest terrorist network of Reich Citizens to date (...) has to answer for its militant plans to overthrow the government."

Prosecutors have said that the accused believed in a "conglomerate of conspiracy myths," including Reich Citizens and QAnon ideology, and were convinced that Germany is ruled by a so-called deep state.

Adherents of the Reich Citizens movement, or Reichsbuergerbewegung in German, reject Germany’s postwar constitution and have called for bringing down the government, while QAnon is a global conspiracy theory with roots in the United States.

According to prosecutors, the group planned to storm into the parliament building in Berlin and arrest lawmakers. It allegedly intended to negotiate a post-coup order primarily with Russia, as one of the allied victors of World War II.

The nine defendants at the Stuttgart trial are accused of membership in a terrorist organization and "preparation of a high treasonous enterprise." One of the defendants is also on trial for attempted murder, dpa reported.

Most of the nine suspects in the Frankfurt trial are also charged with membership in a terrorist organization and "preparation of high treasonous undertaking." The other eight alleged members of the group have been charged in separate indictments at the court in Munich.

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