Germany trial: 'Far-right' gunman denies police murder

image copyrightAFP
image captionWolfgang P says the police raid on his house was "amateurish" and he was just trying to defend himself from unknown assailants

A suspected far-right activist has denied a charge of murder at the start of his trial in Germany over the death of a police officer.

Wolfgang P, 49, is accused of murdering the officer when he shot through his front door during an early-morning police raid last October.

The officer later died of his wounds and three more were injured.

The accused also denies being affiliated with the Reichsbürger association of far-right nationalists.

His trial, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, is set to last for 12 days.

'Amateurish' raid

It will examine a police raid on the defendant's residence in the small town of Georgensgmünd on 19 October.

The police were trying to seize his arsenal of 31 weapons after his permits were revoked on the grounds that he had refused to allow authorities to carry out an inspection and had been deemed "psychologically unsound" in an assessment.

A police investigation established that as officers tried to enter the property, he shot 11 rounds through the front door, hitting one in the lung and one in the forearm.

The trial will now have to establish whether or not, as prosecutors argue, the defendant had learned that a raid was being planned and had prepared for it by donning a bulletproof vest.

On Tuesday, his lawyer insisted her client had been asleep when the "amateurish" raid began and had no idea that it was a police operation.

"This can't possibly be considered an act of murder," Susanne Koller told the court, according to Reuters news agency.

Wolfgang P also denies charges of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm.

He insists he does not belong to the Reichsbürger group which rejects the legitimacy of institutions such as the police - believing in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich.

Since the killing, the German intelligence agency has taken a closer interest in the group, and now estimates that about 12,600 people identify as members, including several hundred known far-right extremists.

Reichsbürger movement

The Reichsbürger ("Reich Citizens") group does not recognise the authority of the post-war German federal republic, seeing it merely as some sort of private company. It believes in the continued existence of a German empire, or Reich, dating back to 1937 or even earlier.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSince the incident, the security services have focused additional efforts on the Reichsbürger group

Its roots are said to go back some three decades.

Bavarian officials said the group's ideology was "nationalist and anti-Semitic.... clearly extreme right". Their circle had grown in recently years, they said, and included "whingers, nutcases, conspiracy theorists, but also the far-right".

The diversity of beliefs and views within the group militates against a simple hierarchical structure or clear leadership.

But German officials have warned that the group should not be dismissed simply as an "association of crackpots".

Some 700 members are known far-right extremists, while others are in the police, security services believe. Others use their rejection of the authority of the German state as grounds to refuse to pay taxes or creditors.

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