German prince at centre of alleged coup plot testifies at trial

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German prince at centre of alleged coup plot testifies at trial

Prince Heinrich XIII of Reuss, the central figure in a mammoth series of trials of extremists who allegedly plotted to topple the German state, testified in court in Frankfurt for the first time on Friday, reported dpa.

"Naturally, I reject violence, but the charge is attempting to accuse me of the opposite," the 72-year-old told the court, showing signs of emotional distress and wiping away tears during his two-hour testimony.

Prince Reuss, a descendent of a noble family whose princely title carries no formal weight, told of the "rape of his psyche and soul" by teachers during his time at school, with one teacher telling him: "All of you should be dispossessed."

He told of how his family had fled Thuringia, a German state occupied at the end of World War II by the Soviet Red Army, for the Frankfurt region in the US zone, where he was born in 1951.

As a boy he had worked with horses in his father's business and later designed and made furniture. He had been exempted from national service on health grounds resulting from a fall from a horse as a child, he said.

The nine on trial in Frankfurt are charged with membership of a terrorist organization that planned to topple the government, while accepting the possibility that people would be killed.

The "Reichsbürger" – or Reich Citizens – group headed by Prince Reuss, believes that the modern German republic illegitimately replaced the German Reich that was founded in 1871 and continued under the Nazi regime until 1945. They reject the legitimacy of Germany's modern federal state and its laws.

The plan, prosecutors allege, was for members of the group's paramilitary wing to raid parliament, arrest politicians and ultimately install Prince Reuss as Germany's new leader.

The group was exposed following multiple raids in several German states and abroad in 2022.

The trial is to continue on Tuesday with questioning of two other accused. It is one of three large trials of members of the group. Five judges and two supplementary judges will hear evidence from around 260 witnesses. If found guilty, the accused could face years in prison.


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