German Reichsbürger member gets life sentence for police murder

Published 24.10.2017 22:31

A German far-right militant from the shadowy Reichsbürger movement was sentenced to life in prison Monday for killing a police officer during a dawn raid on his house.

Wolfgang Plan, 50, was convicted by the regional court in the southern city of Nuremberg of murder in a case that sparked a nationwide crackdown on radical right-wing groups. Plan, who referred to himself exclusively in the third person during the trial, smiled as he entered the courtroom wearing a dark suit. He sat impassively as the presiding judge read out the verdict. He had denied intending to kill the 32-year-old officer during the trial, which started in August, as well as membership in the Reichsbürger movement, also known as Citizens of the Reich.

As a result, Plan was also convicted on two counts of attempted murder. His defense attorneys had called for a verdict of manslaughter, with a significantly milder prison sentence.

Prosecutors argued Plan, a hunter who once ran a martial arts school, fired 11 shots "with the intention of causing as many deadly injuries as possible." The raid was aimed at seizing Plan's arsenal of about 30 weapons after his permits were rescinded following an assessment that he was psychologically unsound. He had previously refused to pay taxes and handed in his official identity card.

Since 2016, German authorities have conducted an increasing number of nationwide raids targeting right-wing groups, including houses, apartments and other properties believed to be owned by members of such groups, targeting Reichsbürgers specifically.

German authorities are increasingly concerned over the Reichsbürger movement, with 718 people in Saxony belong to the far-right movement, according to the Federal Police Office for the Protection of the Constitution. In Bavaria, numbers are going up, with around 3,000 people reported as being part of the movement.

On average, members are almost 50 years old and male, the report says. Most of the Reichsbürgers live in Central Saxony, the Vogtlandkreis and the counties of Bautzen and Görlitz, the report says.

Reichsbürger members do not recognize the modern German state as legitimate, citing technicalities about the fall of the Nazi Third Reich in May 1945, stipulating that while the Wehrmacht top brass did surrender to the Allies, the political leaders of the government, such as ministers and Adolf Hitler himself, never surrendered. Hitler also considered the surrender of Heinrich Himmler and Herman Göring as high treason, expelling them from the government before the Reich's collapse.

The Reichsbürger movement also believes that the legitimate borders of Germany are those of 1937, before the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. They also refuse to acknowledge the modern constitution and pay no taxes, claiming to be following the laws of the Third Reich's constitution.

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