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December 7, 2022

A real-world German variation on attempt/conspiracy hypos

Though I do not know German conspiracy and attempt laws, I do know that this new story from the Washington Post, headlined "German police arrest 25 over far-right plot to overthrow government,"provides a useful reminder of the real-world risks that attempt/conspiracy laws seek to address.  Here are excerpts:

German authorities on Wednesday arrested 25 people suspected of plotting to use armed force to storm parliament and violently overthrow the state, marking one of the country’s largest ever raids targeting right-wing extremists.... The majority are accused of being part of a “terrorist organization,” according to the prosecutor’s statement.  The remaining three — including a Russian national — were detained on suspicion of being supporters.

In addition to the arrests, police searched the properties of a further 27 individuals who are being investigated on an “initial suspicion” of being a member or having supported the organization, the statement said.  More than 3,000 police officers were involved in the raids, which took place in 11 of Germany’s 16 states.

The accused subscribe to a variety of conspiracy theories, including QAnon, but draw most heavily from the Reichsbürger movement, which denies the existence of the modern German state, officials said. But they warned it would be naive to dismiss them as cranks.  “Of course there are many busybodies who tell confused stories after drinking alcohol,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted. “Here, however, there were such strong suspicions that the group wanted to take violent action.”

The details of the suspected plot triggered comparisons to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as German politicians raised it as a reminder of what can happen when anti-constitutional plans are allowed to manifest....

The group was united in a belief that Germany is run by a members of a “deep state,” the prosecutor said, adding that it was prepared to use violence — including the murder of state representatives — to carry out its aim of replacing the existing order in Germany with its own form of government.  The group had planned out the structure of the state apparatus it planned to install once Germany’s government was overthrown, including departments of health, justice and foreign affairs....

“Since November 2021, the members of the ‘Council’ have regularly met in secret to plan the intended takeover of power in Germany and the establishment of their own state structures,” the statement said.  Members believed that “liberation” would be assisted by the intervention of the “Alliance” — a secret society of military and governments, including those of Russia and the United States.  Heinrich XIII had reached out to Russian representatives inside Germany, the prosecutor’s office said — although it added there were no indications of a positive response to his overtures....

According to Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, one of the defendants posted on Telegram shortly before the raids that public prosecutors, judges and health authorities would “soon find themselves in the dock at Nuremberg 2.0,” in reference to the trials of Nazi war criminals held after World War II.

Without more particulars, of course, it would be hard to debate the particulars of actus reus and mens rea here. But this story from another nation, I thought, provided a useful reminder that the issues we discussed to wrap up the semester are not only of concern in US criminal law and practice.

December 7, 2022 in Notable real cases | Permalink


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