One of postwar Germany’s most publicized terrorism trials concluded Friday as a former German soldier was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for plotting a far-right attack on senior politicians while posing as a Syrian refugee.
The 33-year-old former army officer – identified as Franco A. in accordance with German privacy laws – was charged with posing under a false identity as an asylum seeker in 2017 and planning an attack that he apparently hoped would be blamed on refugees and migrants.
”The accused is guilty of planning a serious act of violence, endangering the state,” presiding judge Christoph Koller said when reading out the verdict at the regional superior court in the western city of Frankfurt.
In the trial that began in May 2021, prosecutors said the Bundeswehr soldier also stole ammunition from the German military, with former Justice Minister Heiko Maas or the parliament’s former vice-president, Claudia Roth, seen as possible targets of an attack.
Franco A. was arrested in 2017 while trying to retrieve a loaded Nazi-era pistol he had hidden in a toilet at Vienna’s international airport.
His fingerprints later revealed he had a second, fake identity as a Syrian refugee, according to investigations. Prosecutors accused Franco A. of intentionally using a fake identity to stoke growing fears over immigration in Germany and trigger a national crisis. At the height of the 2015/16 migrant influx, more than one million asylum seekers entered Germany.
In her closing argument on July 8, Frankfurt prosecutor Karin Weingast said Franco A. ”wanted to stage an attack with a major political impact.”
Soon after Franco A.’s arrest, the then Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said this particular case pointed to a much larger “attitude problem” in the German armed forces.