Former German soldier sentenced to five and a half years in prison for far-right conspiracy

A 33-year-old former army officer, identified as Franco A. under German privacy laws, was charged with posing as an asylum seeker in 2017 and planning an attack in which, as he appeared to I hoped that refugees and migrants would be blamed.

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“The accused is guilty of planning a serious act of violence that endangers the state,” presiding judge Christoph Koller said as he read out the verdict at the regional high court in the western city of Frankfurt.

At a trial that began in May 2021, prosecutors said a Bundeswehr soldier also stole ammunition from the German armed forces, and former justice minister Heiko Maas or former parliamentary vice president Claudia Roth were seen as possible targets for the attack.

Franco A. was arrested in 2017 while trying to retrieve a loaded Nazi-era handgun that he hid in a restroom at Vienna International Airport.

According to the investigation, his fingerprints later revealed that he had a second, fake identity as a Syrian refugee. The prosecutor’s office accused Franco A. of deliberately using false personal data to fuel growing fears about immigration to Germany and provoke a national crisis. At the height of the influx of migrants in 2015/16, more than a million asylum seekers arrived in Germany.

In her final speech on 8 July, Frankfurt prosecutor Karin Weingast stated that Franco A. “wanted to stage an attack with serious political implications”.

Shortly after the arrest of Franco A., the then Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyensaid that this particular case points to a much larger “attitude problem” in the German armed forces.