German accused of founding armed group to fight COVID rules

Wednesday, 6 December 2023 (14:47 IST)
German prosecutors said a man suspected of forming an armed group to oppose anti-coronavirus measures has been arrested in Portugal.
Prosecutors in the western city of Koblenz accused the suspect of leading the criminal group "Paladin," producing parts for weapons and holding training sessions with the aim of taking armed action against pandemic measures.
What we know about the group
The 39-year-old suspect, who has German citizenship and most recently lived in Bavaria, is accused, alongside two other individuals, of forming both a criminal organization and an armed group between February 2021 and May 2021.
It is alleged that they committed offenses under Germany's Weapons Act.
Among other things, the lead suspect produced parts for weapons using a 3D printer. Despite the training sessions, there were no indications of concrete attack plans.
The man's whereabouts were unknown since June this year until the arrest, which took place in November.
Prosecutors said the man was in custody awaiting extradition proceedings, although it was unclear if and when he would be sent back to Germany.
What more do we know about the group?
German public broadcaster NDR had previously reported that a European arrest warrant had been issued for the lead suspect, who it identified as  Joachim T., as well as two men, aged 56 and 63.
They were reportedly from the district of Bernkastel-Wittlich in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, some 60 kilometers (less than 40 miles) southwest of Koblenz. 
The three accused are accused of having "rejected the state measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic and of having seen them as merely a pretext for the state to abolish fundamental rights," NDR cited prosecutors as saying.
T. was reportedly given a suspended sentence at the beginning of 2022 because of illegal weapons production.
In an interview with NDR show Panorama after the conviction, he said he believed the coronavirus health crisis was being "politicized" and that "the basic order would collapse completely."
At the time, he denied having founded an armed group, although he confirmed that he had taken part in meetings in the forest wearing a camouflage uniform.
He allegedly advertised for small armed groups that "go into consistent resistance against criminal arbitrariness," meaning the state-imposed coronavirus measures.
The court was told that T. had lost his job as a physiotherapist because of his refusal to wear a mask at work.
Separately, five people went on trial in Koblenz in May over an alleged plot by a far-right group calling itself United Patriots to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach in protest at coronavirus measures.

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