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Germany charges sixth suspect in minister kidnap plot

BERLIN (AFP) – German prosecutors said yesterday they had charged a sixth suspect in a far-right plot to kidnap the health minister and overthrow the government in protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The 61-year-old man was charged with “the preparation of a treasonous enterprise and membership in a terrorist organisation”, Frankfurt prosecutors said in a statement.

The group intended to strike several parts of the energy grid to provoke a “nationwide power outage lasting several weeks” that would provide cover for a coup attempt, investigators said. The alleged plotters planned to abduct Health Minister Karl Lauterbach “at gunpoint”, potentially killing his bodyguards in the process. During the pandemic, some of the fiercest opponents of the government’s anti-virus measures were far-right activists who reject Germany’s democratic institutions.

Lauterbach had become a hate figure for the group because of the pandemic restrictions including the requirement to wear face masks in public places that he had ordered.

“The kidnapping of a high-ranking federal government official was intended to demonstrate the group’s determination and capabilities,” prosecutors said.

The latest suspect was said to have “participated in meetings of the group and worked on the concretisation of the plans”.

The man allegedly declared himself ready to participate in the kidnapping of Lauterbach, prosecutors said.

He also offered his garage in the region south of Frankfurt to a group ringleaders as a weapons store, investigators said.

The senior plotter was arrested in April 2022 and the arms, two assault rifles and four pistols, were never deposited.