German court convicts soldier who posed as refugee for attack plot

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A German court on Friday convicted a military officer who posed as a Syrian asylum-seeker and was accused of plotting to kill prominent politicians and blame the attack on refugees, sentencing him to five and a half years in prison.

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The Frankfurt state court convicted the defendant of preparing a serious crime meant to endanger the state and violations of weapons laws among other offenses, German news agency dpa reported.

It also found that he has right-wing extremist views. He has been identified only as 1st Lt. Franco A. in line with German privacy rules.

The 33-year-old German came to the attention of authorities after he was arrested in February 2017 while going to retrieve a pistol, he had stashed in a Vienna airport bathroom.

He was freed, but Austrian authorities informed Germany. When the soldier’s fingerprint matched the one, he’d given to register as an asylum-seeker, it triggered the investigation.

Prosecutors alleged that the defendant’s targets included then Justice Minister Heiko Maas and the Jewish head of an anti-racism organization. He had stockpiled four firearms including an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 50 explosive devices, some stolen from military stores, they said.

The soldier denied the allegations at his trial, which opened in May last year, but conceded that he had hoarded weapons and ammunition in case public order collapsed in Germany. He has asserted that, by posing as an asylum-seeker, he wanted to uncover faults in asylum proceedings.

Prosecutors, who labeled him a “radical right-wing terrorist,” had sought a sentence of six years and three months. The defense had sought his acquittal on the main charge of preparing a serious crime meant to endanger the state, and fines or suspended sentences on other charges.

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