BERLIN – A German army officer posing as a Syrian asylum seeker was on trial Thursday on charges of plotting to kill prominent politicians and blaming the attack on the refugees.
Federal prosecutors say the accused, identified only as 1st Lt. Franco A. due to German privacy rules, acted on far-right motives. The case has raised concerns about extremism in the country’s military.
Ahead of his trial in Frankfurt Regional Court, the 32-year-old defendant denied planning to carry out attacks, dpa news agency reported.
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His lawyer, Moritz Schmitt-Fricke, claimed his client had been the victim of a smear campaign and denied having extreme right-wing leanings, citing his interest in punk music as evidence.
Franco A. came to the attention of authorities after being arrested in February 2017 while going to retrieve a pistol he had hidden in a toilet at Vienna airport. He was released, but Austrian authorities informed Germany. When the soldier’s fingerprint matches the one he gave to register as an asylum seeker, it sparked the investigation.
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Prosecutors alleged that the accused’s targets included then Justice Minister Heiko Maas and the Jewish leader of an anti-racist organization. He had stored four firearms, including an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds and more than 50 explosive devices, some stolen from military stores, they said.
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