Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss: Who is the ‘ringleader’ of the German far-right coup plot – and what is the Reichsburger movement? | World News

German authorities say they have foiled a plot by a far-right terrorist group to overthrow the government.

More than 3,000 police officers took part in raids across the countrywith a self-styled prince among 25 people arrested.

But who is Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss – the 71-year-old alleged mastermind – and what is the Reichsburger movement that is said to have inspired the plan?

Police officers lead Prince Reuss to a police vehicle after searches at a house PIC:DPA/AP
Pic: AP

The ‘ringleader’ and the House of Ruess

Heinrich XIII comes from a German aristocratic family that goes back to the 12th century, the House of Ruess, and authorities say the plotters planned to make him leader of a new government.

According to the German news site Bild, he had been in contact with Russian officials with the aim of negotiating a new order in the country.

His descendants once ruled over parts of the east Germanybut this ended when the country became a republic and their land became part of the state of Thuringia in 1920.

All male members of the family are named Heinrich (Henry), with the first child of each century known as Heinrich I, the second Heinrich II and so on.

It’s said to be in tribute to the Roman emperor Henry VI who gave the family their titles. The numbering system resets roughly every century – or when it reaches 100.

A lodge in Saaldorf, Thuringia, believed to be owned by Heinrich, was raided. Pic: AP
A lodge in Saaldorf, believed to be owned by Heinrich, was among the properties raided.  Pic: AP

Heinrich XIII still appears to be wealthy and a hunting lodge in Thuringia, thought to belong to him, was among the properties raided on Wednesday.

Born near Frankfurt in 1951, he married an Iranian woman and has a son and daughter in their 30s.

Details of how he makes a living are unclear, but there are reports that he works in property and finance.

The current head of the House of Reuss, Prince Heinrich XIV, distanced himself from his relative earlier this year.

In an interview with the German site OTZ in August, he described him as a “confused old man” who believed in conspiracy theories and said he had not been in contact with his family for 14 years.

What is the Reichsburger movement?

The plotters planned to use “violence and military means” and were “driven by violent overthrow fantasies and conspiracy ideologies”, say prosecutors.

“The arrested persons adhere to conspiracy myths consisting of various narratives of the Reichsburger ideology as well as the QAnon ideology,” prosecutor Peter Frank said in a statement.

Reichsburger translates as “Citizens of the Reich” and adherents believe the post-Second World War German state is illegitimate and a puppet state created by the Allies.

Reichsburger has largely been a loosely structured movement made up of splinter groups and individuals.

Police escorts a person to a helicopter during Wednesday's raids
Police escort a person to a helicopter in Karlsruhe during Wednesday’s raids
Police secures the area after 25 suspected members and supporters of a far-right group were detained during raids across Germany
Police also carried out operations in Berlin

There are estimated to be around 20,000 members in Germany and the country’s intelligence agency believes 5% are far-right extremists with racist and anti-Semitic views.

Some refuse to pay taxes, reject Germany’s laws, or spam government departments and courts with made-up demands as a show of disobedience and to jam up the system.

The group had been seen as fairly innocuous until 2016, when a Reichsburger believer shot and killed a police officer and injured three others when they raided his home to confiscate weapons.

Authorities began to monitor the group more closely and there have been increasing concerns about members stockpiling weapons.

The group is also said to be sympathetic to America’s right-wing QAnon conspiracy mythswhich claims a secretive and evil global cabal conspired against Donald Trump when he was president.

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