German judges confirm arrest of 23 alleged coup plotters

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German authorities said on Friday that judges have confirmed the arrest of 23 people detained earlier this week on suspicion of planning to topple the government, while the extradition of two others detained abroad is being sought.

Prosecutors said 22 German citizens and a Russian woman detained in a series of raids across Germany on Wednesday have appeared before a federal court for their arraignment and will remain in custody as the investigation into the case continues.

Extradition proceedings have been initiated in the case of two others, identified only as Maximilian E. and Frank H., who were detained in Italy and Austria respectively, prosecutors said.

German authorities described the suspects as being part of the far-right Reich Citizens movement. Its adherents deny the legitimacy of the present-day German constitution and government, claiming instead that the German empire, or Reich, of 1871 still exists.

Germany Far Right
A police helicopter with a suspect arrives in Karlsruhe, Germany, close the federal prosecutor’s office (Michael Probst/AP/PA)

The case has also put a spotlight once more on the far-right Alternative for Germany party. One of its former politicians, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, was among those arrested. A Berlin judge, she was to become justice minister if the coup succeeded, prosecutors said.

While the party’s leadership has denounced the plot, one of its MPs called the raids “the biggest abuse of power in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany”.

Petr Bystron, an AfD MP from Bavaria, accused German authorities of “massive intimidation of the entire opposition”.

Rival politicians, meanwhile, have called for the party’s links with the Reich Citizens movement to be investigated.

Bavaria’s governor Markus Soeder said on Friday that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency should step up its surveillance of AfD.

Lars Klingbeil, the general-secretary of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, accused AfD of being the “parliamentary interface for hatred, incitement and violence”.

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