Authorities arrested six suspects Wednesday morning and raided several properties in Dresden after discovering plans to assassinate Saxony’s pro-vaccine governor Michael Kretschmer, state police said.
The suspects are members of a Telegram chat group called “Dresden Offline Networking”, in which they are alleged to have planned a “serious state-threatening crime” according to a police statement.
“Members of the chat group, who have in common anti-vaccination, against the state and current policies to combat the pandemic, stated in the chat group and in non-virtual meetings plans to assassinate the governor of Saxony and other members of the state government of Saxony,” it said.
Politicians and media have also reportedly received packages of raw meat and threats from alleged anti-vaxxers in recent days, said Heidi Vogt, spokeswoman for the Berlin police. The letters in the packages contain reports that the meat in them was poisonous and that more such shipments will follow if mandatory vaccinations are introduced in Germany. The meat turned out to be safe, Vogt said.
Scholz, who took office on December 8, used his first statement to parliament to denounce the actions of a “small minority of outraged extremists”.
“We will counter this small minority of people full of hatred, who are attacking us all with torches, violence and threats of murder, with all the instruments of our democratic state based on the rule of law. Our democracy is a combative democracy,” Scholz said, receiving applause from a chorus of lawmakers.
Scholz recently said he is in favor of mandatory vaccinations in Germany and wants a law to be drafted that can be voted on by parliament at the end of February.
Vaccinations will be mandatory from March 16 for people who work in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical practices.
Protests against restrictions on unvaccinated people and plans to make shots mandatory for some groups in Germany have grown more violent of late, with more attacks on doctors, politicians and journalists, Reuters reports.
Scholz said that while Germany welcomes vigorous debate over the government’s response to Covid-19, political disagreements should be seen as distinct from “the denial of reality, absurd conspiracy theories, wanton misinformation and violent extremism”.
“To put it plainly, a small extremist minority has turned their backs not only on science, rationality and common sense, but also on our society, our democracy and our community,” Scholz said.
A murder plot discovered
Authorities began their investigation into the Telegram group after the German investigative magazine ZDF Frontal 21 first reported on the alleged murder plot last Tuesday.
The unnamed suspects are all German citizens, according to police, including five men aged 32, 34, 42, 45 and 64 and a 34-year-old woman. Evidence obtained during the ongoing investigation has so far uncovered several crossbows and other weapons.
Saxony Governor Michael Kretschmer condemned the alleged plot on his official Twitter account. “Now is the time to act. Our democracy must be defended,” Kretschmer said. “Groups on Telegram that spread division and demagoguery need to show their limits.”
Kretschmer has expressed his support for the country’s vaccination campaign and on Tuesday tweeted encouraging people to get their booster shots.
“We need a federally unified strategy against Omicron. We will expand booster shots and childhood vaccination,” he said.
Saxony, which has the second-highest number of new coronavirus cases in Germany and the lowest vaccination rate, has faced protests from opponents of coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks, according to Reuters.