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German prince accused of leading coup plot goes on trial

By Inke Kappeler and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

(CNN) — An aristocrat suspected of planning to overthrow the German government appeared in court on Tuesday, as part of a mammoth trial exposing an alleged far-right plan to storm the country’s parliament.

Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, 72, is accused of leading the plot, which would have led to him becoming Germany’s head of state. The prince appeared at a specially erected high-security courtroom in Frankfurt alongside eight other defendants, including former judge Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, who was allegedly ready to become minister of justice.

In total, nine ringleaders accused of treason are believed to have planned the resurrection of the German Reich, or empire, through violence, by storming the Bundestag, the national parliament, and kidnapping President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Tuesday marks the opening of the second of the three trials across Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Munich, forming one of the biggest anti-terror cases in modern German history.

With 27 defendants in total, the case was split into three trials for logistical reasons. In addition to the five judges, two others will be on standby for the Frankfurt trial in the event of a long-term absence. Around 260 witnesses will be summoned and up to 45 officers will ensure security on site.

Malsack-Winkemann, an ex-lawmaker for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, allegedly led several co-defendants around the Reichstag building scouting the location.

The defendants also include former army officers Maximilian Eder and Ruediger von Pescatore, who allegedly shared “a deep aversion to German state institutions and to the democratic basic order,” the Hesse higher regional court said in a statement.

The plot by the terror organization to overthrow the German government and install martial law was uncovered in 2022. The group had planned to replace the government with a cabinet-like council and a military wing since August 2021, according to the charges.

The plotters amassed almost $550,000 in funds and had access to a massive armory, according to the Public Prosecutor.

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