Prince Heinrich XIII and Co-Conspirators on Trial for German State Coup Plot

Today begins the trial of Prince Heinrich, the initiator of a coup d'état that aimed to restore the German Empire. German Prince Heinrich arrived in the courtroom with his Russian girlfriend.

by Sededin Dedovic
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Prince Heinrich XIII and Co-Conspirators on Trial for German State Coup Plot
© Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images

The most spectacular of the three trials of a broad group of far-right conspirators who planned a violent overthrow of the German state will be held today in Frankfurt, with a high level of security and immense media interest, reports The Guardian.

The trial involves the group's ringleader, a self-styled aristocratic real estate agent known as Prince Heinrich XIII, his Russian girlfriend, and seven other founding members, including a former policeman and a former judge who is now a member of the far-right AfD party.

According to federal prosecutors, the group planned to storm the Reichstag in Berlin with armed support from their paramilitary wing, arrest members of the Bundestag, and parade a shackled Olaf Scholz on German television in the hope of gaining popular support for their coup.

They expected that if successful, Heinrich (72) would become the new chancellor of Germany. The group is part of the growing Reichsbürger movement, or Citizens of the Reich, which currently has an estimated 23,000 members who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the modern German state and wish to redraw Germany's borders to pre-1918 lines.

The Frankfurt trial, taking place in a specially constructed building made of metal containers on the outskirts of Germany's financial capital, is the second involving the conspirators. In late April, a trial began in Stuttgart for the group's alleged military wing, consisting of former special service soldiers, police officers, metalworkers, and a plumber.

A third trial, involving the so-called esoteric wing of the group, including a doctor and a celebrity chef—seen as the group's shadow cabinet—is expected to take place in Munich in June. In total, 26 people are on trial—27th member, a man in his 70s, recently died in a Frankfurt hospital—and these three cases are expected to last a year or more.

Special Forces bring Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss into the Oberlandesgericht Frankfurt courthouse on the first day of the second © Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images

Gundula Fehns-Boehr, spokesperson for the regional court in Frankfurt, said, "It is a challenge for all of us, but we will sit here as long as we have to." The conspirators were arrested in December 2022 when heavily armed forces raided houses, apartments, offices, and a remote hunting lodge.

Investigators had been tracking the group for several months. Among those arrested were leading members of the conspiracy theory organization QAnon, a clairvoyant, a dentist, and an amateur pilot. There has been considerable mockery at home and abroad over the group's apparent ridiculous ideas, with evidence allegedly showing that some conspirators acted according to the positions of the stars.

Questions have been raised about whether the group actually had the capability to carry out their plans, and some have accused German authorities of exaggerating the threat posed by the group. However, in their 621-page indictment, investigators repeatedly emphasized how well-organized and dangerous the group was.

Police say the group amassed more than half a million euros in gold and cash, as well as hundreds of firearms, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and explosives. They acquired satellite phones to stay in contact after their paramilitary wing executed plans to shut down national communication networks and power.

The group was waiting for "Day X" to begin the coup, with one member believing the signal would be the death of Queen Elizabeth II. When police raided one member's house, he opened fire, wounding two officers. Sophie Schönberger, a constitutional law expert at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and co-author of a book on Reichsbürger, said, "The chances of such a coup actually succeeding were not that great, but it could have caused a significant level of violence and was capable of sending shockwaves through the system." Prince Heinrich attempted to stage a coup and install himself as regent.

This is not a fairy tale but a harsh reality that unfolded in Germany yesterday. The goal was to carry out a coup and overthrow the government in Berlin. However, the plan was foiled in a major operation by the German Federal Prosecutor's Office and the Special Criminal Police.

In an operation called "Shadow," thousands of security service members searched 137 properties owned by 52 suspects, arresting 25 of them, reported Germany's Bild. Prince Heinrich XIII is a descendant of a 700-year-old noble family that once ruled a small state in eastern Germany.

He was a relatively obscure figure until he was identified as one of the leaders of the group accused of attempting to overthrow the German government. Heinrich was accused by prosecutors of founding a "terrorist organization last year with the aim of toppling the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own form of state, which is already in the process of being established." The suspects were aware that their goal could only be achieved by military means and force, prosecutors said.

They added that the suspects allegedly believed in "conspiracy theories consisting of the so-called Citizens of the Reich narratives, as well as QAnon ideology."

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