Former German soldier jailed for posing as Syrian refugee and planning attack

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By Euronews  with AFP, DPA
The 33-year-old German army officer was found guilty of a serious crime meant to endanger the state.
The 33-year-old German army officer was found guilty of a serious crime meant to endanger the state.   -   Copyright  BORIS ROESSLER / POOL / AFP

A far-right former German soldier has been jailed after posing as a Syrian refugee and planning to commit a terror attack.

Franco Albrecht was found guilty of "planning a serious act of violence threatening state security," the court in Frankfurt said on Friday.

The 33-year-old was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison after a lengthy trial.

German prosecutors had described Albrecht as a "far-right terrorist" who had been inspired by extremist ideologies "for several years".

They accused him of trying to blame his attack on refugees and undermine public confidence in the German government's asylum policy.

"The defendant harboured a nationalist, racist and antisemitic ideology," Judge Christoph Koller ruled.

As a lieutenant in the army, he had been based at the Franco-German base in Illkirch near Strasbourg before he successfully posed as a refugee in 2015.

Albrecht -- claiming to be called David Benjamin -- managed to obtain a German residence permit and €4,000 in state benefits as an asylum seeker. He had reportedly told immigration authorities that he was a grocer from Damascus.

He was eventually arrested in April 2017 while trying to retrieve a gun that he had hidden in a toilet at Vienna airport. German authorities then launched an investigation when his fingerprint matched one registered as an asylum-seeker.

The targets of his attack allegedly included former German justice minister Heiko Maas, former deputy Bundestag speaker Claudia Roth and a Jewish human rights activist.

The case has sent shockwaves through the German military, which is facing additional scrutiny about soldiers' far-right ideologies.

During the trial, Albrecht said he was "sorry" for having fooled the immigration system but denied that he was planning a far-right attack.

Police had discovered Nazi military decorations during a search, leading to his re-arrest during legal proceedings. Xenophobic messages were found on the suspect's mobile phone and handwritten notes.

"He wanted to commit an attack with a major political impact," said prosecutor Karin Weingast.

Albrecht was also accused of stealing ammunition from the German military and has been convicted of illegally possessing two assault rifles.

His lawyers say they will appeal the verdict.