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CRIME

Far-right hunter jailed for life for killing policeman at his doorstep

A German far-right militant belonging to the shadowy "Citizens of the Reich" movement was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for killing a policeman during a dawn raid on his house.

Far-right hunter jailed for life for killing policeman at his doorstep
Wolfgang Plan in a Nuremberg court on Monday. Photo: DPA.

Wolfgang Plan, 50, was convicted by the regional court in the southern city of Nuremberg of murder in a case that sparked a nationwide crackdown on radical right-wing groups.

Plan, who referred to himself exclusively in the third person during the trial, smiled as he entered the courtroom wearing a dark suit. He sat impassively as the presiding judge read out the verdict.

He had denied intending to kill the 32-year-old officer during the trial, which started in August, as well as membership of the so-called Reichsbürger (Citizens of the Reich).

The group includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.

Plan told the court through his lawyer that he 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.

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

As a result, Plan was also convicted on two counts of attempted murder. His defence attorneys had called for a verdict of manslaughter, with a significantly milder prison sentence.

Prosecutors argued Plan, a hunter who once ran a martial arts school, fired 11 shots “with the intention of causing as many deadly injuries as possible”.

The raid was aimed at seizing Plan's arsenal of about 30 weapons after his permits were rescinded following an assessment that he was psychologically “unsound”.

He had previously refused to pay taxes and handed in his official identity card.

'My word is law'

Reichsbürger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich or empire as it stood under the Nazis, and several groups have declared their own states.

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

News agency DPA said Plan had established a pseudo-state on his property, drawing “borders” around it with yellow lines and hanging a sign reading “My word is law here”.

Bavaria state interior minister Joachim Herrmann said the court had handed down a “tough sentence that is appropriate for the brutality of the crime”.

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

Since Plan's arrest, police have carried out a series of raids against suspected Reichbürger militants, seizing arms and making several arrests.

Security services believe some 15,000 people in Germany identify as Reichsbürger, some 900 of whom are known far-right extremists.

Two months before the deadly shooting in Bavaria, a then 41-year-old Reichsbürger and one-time “Mister Germany” pageant winner, Adrian Ursache, 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.

After repeatedly disturbing the proceedings before the court in the city of Halle, he was barred from the courtroom last week. His trial will continue in his absence.

READ ALSO: What is Germany's extremist Reichsbürger movement?

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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