German ‘Reichsbuerger’ suspect on trial for police murder

Wolfgang Plan denies charges, says he never intended to kill anyone and is not affiliated with far-right ‘Citizens of the Reich’

Wolfgang Plan, alleged member of the far-right movement "Citizens of the Reich" (Reichsbuerger), arrives at his trial at the Nuremberg-Fuerth Court in Nuremberg, southern Germany on August 29, 2017. (Daniel Karmann / dpa / AFP)
Wolfgang Plan, alleged member of the far-right movement "Citizens of the Reich" (Reichsbuerger), arrives at his trial at the Nuremberg-Fuerth Court in Nuremberg, southern Germany on August 29, 2017. (Daniel Karmann / dpa / AFP)

NUREMBERG, Germany — A 49-year-old German suspected of belonging to the shadowy far-right “Reichsbuerger” movement denied a charge of murder as he went on trial Tuesday for shooting a policeman during an early-morning raid on his house.

Speaking through his lawyer, Wolfgang Plan told the court in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg that he never intended to kill anyone.

Plan also denied being affiliated with the Reichsbuerger or “Citizens of the Reich” movement, whose members include neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.

“He would not describe himself as such,” defense lawyer Susanne Koller said.

She said her client was woken from his sleep and thought he was under attack when his house was stormed in the “amateurish” raid in October 2016, and had no idea he was firing at police.

“This can’t possibly be considered an act of murder,” Koller told the court.

One policeman was critically injured and later died of his wounds, while three others were injured in the confrontation in the town of Georgensgmuend.

Psychologically ‘unsound’

The raid was aimed at seizing Plan’s arsenal of about 30 weapons after his permits were rescinded following an assessment that he was psychologically “unsound.”

Plan, a hunter who once ran a martial arts school, stands accused of murder, attempted murder and causing grieving bodily harm.

Despite rejecting the “Reichsbuerger” label, Plan had apparently declared his own mini-state, with DPA news agency reporting he had drawn yellow lines around his property to demarcate the borders of “the government district of Wolfgang.”

“He had his own state with his own laws,” a neighbor was quoted as telling DPA.

Reichsbuerger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich and several groups have declared their own states.

They typically deny the legitimacy of police and other state institutions and refuse to pay taxes.

Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger are seen as a growing threat after a string of violent incidents.

Two months before the deadly shooting in Bavaria, a 41-year-old Reichsbuerger and one-time “Mister Germany” pageant winner opened fire on police carrying out an eviction order at his house in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.

The gunman was seriously wounded and three officers suffered light injuries.

Police have since launched a crackdown on the movement, carrying out a series of raids against suspected Reichsbuerger, seizing arms and making several arrests.

In June, Germany’s national and regional interior ministries said anyone who identifies as a Reichsbuerger should be barred from possessing a weapon.

Security services believe some 12,600 people in Germany identify as Reichsbuerger, some 700 of whom are known far-right extremists.

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