Five people are set to go on trial in Germany accused of planning a far-right coup and to kidnap the country’s health minister.
Four men aged 44 to 56 and a 75-year-old woman are accused of treason and founding or being members of a terrorist organisation.
Prosecutors say the group has links to the Reich Citizens scene that rejects the legitimacy of Germany’s postwar constitution and has similarities to the Sovereign Citizens and QAnon movements in the US.
The defendants allegedly intended to create “conditions similar to civil war” by using bombs to cause nationwide blackouts before kidnapping health minister Karl Lauterback – a prominent advocate of strict anti-Covid measures.
There is no indication the group, called United Patriots, was close to launching an alleged coup.
But prosecutors say its procurement of weapons and cash show its members are “dangerous criminals who wanted to implement their plans”.
The men, whose names have not been released for privacy reasons, were arrested last April.
At the time, police seized 22 firearms, including a Kalashnikov rifle, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, as well as large sums of cash, gold and silver.
The woman, who was arrested six months later, allegedly drafted numerous documents for the group, including an ‘arrest warrant’ for Mr Lauterbach.
The retired teacher also wrote letters addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
With the trial set to start on Wednesday, Mr Lauterbach told German weekly Der Spiegel he hopes for a “hard, fair verdict” that will deter others from planning similar plots.
In a separate case, more than two dozen people were arrested in December, also for allegedly planning to topple the government.
Among the alleged plotters is a member of the far-right Alternative For Germany party.