German soldier jailed for planning far-right attack

A German soldier has been jailed for plotting a right-wing attack on senior politicians whilst posing as a Syrian refugee.

Franco Albrecht has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

The presiding judge said he planned "a serious act of violence endangering the state".

The defendant had been in the dock before the regional superior court in Frankfurt since May 2021. He was found to have listed cabinet ministers, MPs and a prominent Jewish human rights activist among his potential targets.

Judge Koller, presiding, said Albrecht had "right-wing extremist and racist-nationalist views that hardened over several years".

Prosecutors described the case as the first in the country's post-war history in which a member of the armed forces was accused of planning a terrorist attack.

Albrecht believed leading public figures were responsible for a welcoming stance toward refugees that he believed would lead to the "replacement of the German nation".

Albrecht posed as a refugee during 2015-2016 when more than a million asylum seekers entered Germany. He darkened his skin with make up and fooled immigration officials for 15 months, posing as a Christian fruit seller from Damascus called David Benjamin, despite speaking no Arabic.

In 2017, he was arrested while trying to retrieve a Nazi-era pistol he had hidden in a toilet at Vienna's international airport. His deceit was discovered when his fingerprints matched with two different identities. The court heard that Albrecht had planned to use the pistol, along with other weapons and explosives he had taken from the army, in order to carry out the attack.

In court, he expressed anti-Semitic, racist and nationalist views and investigations showed that he owned a copy of Mein Kampf and stated that immigration was a form of "genocide". He said that then-chancellor Angela Merkel had failed to uphold the constitution by welcoming refugees.

At the time of his arrest, Ursula von der Leyen, then-defence minister now European Commission chief, said Albrecht's case highlighted a much larger "attitude problem" in the German military. According to the German government, more than 300 employees of national and state military, police and security agencies are linked to far-right extremist movements.

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