(CBS) Berlin — Radical opponents of coronavirus vaccines and restrictions allegedly plotted to kill the elected leader of the eastern German state of Saxony. Six suspects were under investigation following raids carried out on Wednesday morning on suspicion of a serious crime endangering the state.
Following threats against Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer in a chat group on the Telegram messaging service, officers from the Saxony State Criminal Police Office (LKA) searched six properties.
The raids were carried out in the state capital of Dresden and the nearby town of Heidenau by about 140 officers. Police seized weapons, including crossbows, and parts of weapons. Whether the weapons were capable of being fired was still being examined. © Provided by CBS NewsPolice officers lead a suspect out of a building during a raid in Dresden, the capital of Germany’s Saxony state, on December 15, 2021, after threats against Saxony’s Prime Minister Kretschmer were posted on the Telegram messaging app.
Photos showed suspects being taken into custody during the raids, but it was not immediately clear whether any of the six suspects was still being held, and no formal arrests or charges were announced on Wednesday.
According to a report by German public broadcaster ZDF, the death threats against the Saxon premier surfaced on Telegram and were focused in large part on Kretschmar’s plans to institute a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the state of Saxony.
One member of the group chat allegedly claimed in an audio message that he had armed himself and had ammunition ready. The Dresden Prosecutor General’s Office and the Saxony State Criminal Police Office both launched investigations.
Police said last week that they were specifically concerned with a Telegram chat group called “Dresden Offlinevernetzung.” There had been, “in their communication and in conversations in secret but also openly filmed meetings in the greater Dresden area, statements about murder plans” regarding Kretschmer and other representatives of the state government, according to the police.
All of the individuals detained as suspects on Wednesday were members of this Telegram group, LKA spokesman Tom Bernhardt confirmed. © Provided by CBS NewsReport on anti-vaccine disinformation spreade… 00:45
Telegram, an encrypted messaging and video calling app based in the United Arab Emirates, has become a hugely popular forum for people opposed to coronavirus vaccines and restrictions around the world.
The prime minister of another German state has called on the country’s federal government to take tough action against Telegram.
Bavarian premier Markus Söder told the German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine that Telegram was one of the primary routes for the dissemination of hate and agitation on the internet.
“First of all, you have to make the clear request to Telegram to eliminate hate and agitation, and also make it legally binding,” he said, noting that if the service won’t agree to help, there are ways to block it.
Social media, or just messaging?
Under German law, social media networks are subject to strict regulation under the Network Enforcement Act, which obliges companies like Facebook and Instagram to detect and delete problematic content, including hate speech and incitement to violence.
While many Germany politicians believe Telegram should fall under that category, the company insists that it is a news and messaging service, not a social media platform.