The German ex-Bundeswehr officer accused of terrorism Franco A. was sentenced to five years and six months in prison by the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court. The court found him guilty on Friday, among other things, of preparing a serious criminal offense endangering the state. Franco A. was arrested at Vienna-Schwechat Airport in February 2017 when he tried to get a loaded pistol from a hiding place in a toilet.
Where the weapon came from and what he planned to do with it is still unclear. After his arrest, it also turned out that the 1989 born Franco A. had assumed the identity of a Syrian refugee – despite a lack of Arabic knowledge.
However, he had since been released. When he was questioned by Austrian investigators after his arrest at Vienna Airport, it was not known that he was also registered as a refugee in Germany. “Otherwise he would not have been able to go as a free man,” Friedrich Köhl, spokesman for the Korneuburg public prosecutor’s office, told APA at the end of April 2017.
Because the man had hidden the loaded 7.65 mm caliber weapon in a toilet at the airport, proceedings were brought against the German lieutenant in Korneuburg. In the interrogation at the beginning of February, the man only revealed himself as a German citizen.
He said he “deposited” the gun because he was flying home and “didn’t want to take it on a plane.” For Köhl, the man’s statements were “unbelievable”. According to media reports, the soldier, who did not have a permit for the weapon, also said that he found the Walther PPK in a bush in January. He wanted to give her up, but forgot about it and therefore hid her.
The German was nevertheless released after the interrogation, said Köhl at the time, referring to the regular mutual legal assistance with Germany. The weapon was secured. Pre-trial detention for a weapon find is disproportionate. Such an act is usually punished with a fine, the public prosecutor said.
According to his own statements, he wanted to use his false identity to uncover abuses in the asylum procedure. The German federal prosecutor’s office assumed in their indictment that he wanted to cast suspicion on Syrian refugees after crimes had been committed. Franco A. denied the allegations, but admitted to having stockpiled several weapons and ammunition in case of a collapse of public order in Germany.
The representative of the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office had demanded a prison sentence of six years and three months in June. Franco A. was “a right-wing extremist terrorist” who had planned attacks on the lives of high-ranking politicians or public figures, said the prosecutor. In the past week, however, the defense attorneys had demanded acquittal for the main charge, the preparation of a criminal offense dangerous to the state, and fines or suspended sentences for the other charges.