German military officer known as Franco A. is guilty of conspiracy against terrorism

FRANKFURT – In one of the most spectacular trials in post-war Germany, an officer posing as a Syrian refugee was sentenced on Friday to five and a half years in prison for participating in a far-right terrorist plot to assassinate prominent public figures in Germany in the hope of overthrowing a democratic order.

The case of First Lieutenant Franco A., whose last name was shortened by the authorities to comply with German privacy laws, shocked the country when he was arrested five years ago and pushed the country to fight against the growing threat of far-right infiltration of the military and police.

Franco A. was found guilty of conspiracy to terrorism, illegal possession of a weapon, and fraud for his attempts to impersonate a refugee, although three months of his sentence are considered to have been served, as he has been in custody since being re-arrested earlier this year.

In 2017, he was caught trying to retrieve a loaded handgun that he hid in a toilet at Vienna airport. His fingerprints later revealed his second, fake identity as a Syrian refugee, sparking alarm and an investigation that would span three countries and several intelligence agencies.

Prosecutors accused him of planning one or more assassinations using his false Syrian identity with the intent to stir up growing fears about immigration to Germany and provoke a national crisis.

This case was another warning for a country that spent decades redeeming its Nazi past, but at the same time failed to fully solve the problem of far-right extremism and terrorism.

Franco A. maintained his innocence to the end, but a series of revelations during the 13-month trial hardened the case against him.

A series of anti-Semitic and racist audiotapes he recorded about himself, some of them fantasizing about “killing” political enemies and applauding anyone who “destroys” the state, were played in court, leaving no doubt to the “hardened far right”. mentality,” the prosecutor’s office called it a political motive.

Charged by the prosecutor’s office with possession of more than 1,000 cartridges, four pistols and about 50 explosives, some of which were stolen from the military bases where he was, Franco A. made a slip at the beginning of the trial and admitted that he had a weapon. .

“Storage and acquisition took place,” he said, although he declined to say where he obtained the weapons, including the G3 assault rifle, or where he disposed of them. To this day they have not been found.

Franco A. began the process as a free man, having been released from custody three and a half years before it was opened. But in a dramatic scene at a subway stop in February, Franco A. was again taken into custody after he went to the house of his colleague and took a bag full of Nazi memorabilia.