Federal prosecutors say the defendant, identified only as 1st Lt. Franco A. due to German privacy rules, acted out of far-right extremist motives. The case has raised concerns about extremism in the country’s military.
Before his trial in Frankfurt’s regional court, the 32-year-old defendant denied that he had planned to carry out any attacks, the dpa news agency reported.
His lawyer, Moritz Schmitt-Fricke, claimed that his client was the victim of a smear campaign and denied that he had far-right leanings, citing his interest in punk music as evidence.
Franco A. 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.