The defendant is in a bad way. Two judicial officers help Elisabeth R. into the courtroom of the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz. The petite woman, 75 years old, wears handcuffs and complains that she is nauseous. A little later, during the reading of the indictment, she holds her head over a trash can below the table. R., who taught as a religion teacher in Mainz for decades, is, in the opinion of the Federal Prosecutor's Office, responsible for the theory to which the four other defendants referred and which is said to have guided their actions.

Timo Steppat

Correspondent for Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland based in Wiesbaden.

  • Follow I follow

For several years now, R. has been publishing essays in which she questions the legitimacy of the Federal Republic of Germany and calls for the restoration of the German Empire in 1871. This alone cost the pensioner R. her pension in the past, against which she also took legal action and initially failed.

She is now on trial as the alleged ringleader of a terrorist group. Also in the dock are four men between the ages of 44 and 56 who belonged to a chat group called "United Patriots." The group became known under this name after their arrest just over a year ago, in April 2022. According to investigators, the four men are said to have become radicalized during the protests against the Corona measures in the pandemic. One of them established contact with R., who had been active in the so-called Reichsbürger milieu for a long time and maintained contacts. From then on, she is said to have been involved in the planning and meetings.

Death of people accepted

The aim of the group is said to have been to eliminate the free democratic basic order and to install an "authoritarian government based on the model of the German Empire," according to Federal Prosecutor Nikolaus Forschner, who read out the indictment on Wednesday morning. They are said to have pursued a multi-stage plan: substations and lines were to be permanently damaged with attacks in order to cause a week-long power outage in Germany.

According to the indictment, the group is also said to have planned the dismissal of the federal government. An actor, disguised as Chancellor or Federal President, was to declare on television that the German Empire of 1871 would be restored and that the Federal Government had therefore been deposed. In addition, according to the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the Federal Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach (SPD), was to be kidnapped from a talk show in front of the cameras.

300,000 euros for weapons

Both in the case of Lauterbach's bodyguards and in the event of a power outage, the group would have suffered considerable damage, but above all the death of people, according to the indictment. Through the planned acts, the defendants wanted to intimidate the population and cause considerable damage to the state. The defendants, some of whom come from the Bundeswehr themselves, are said to have announced their intention to recruit members of the Special Forces Command. In total, it is about a sentence of ten years, which could also go beyond that in the event of a summing up of sentences.