Federal prosecutors have charged 28-year-old former lieutenant Franco Hans A., who was arrested in April, and two of his accomplices with planning an act of violence and violating weapons and explosives laws.
“Motivated by a nationalist attitude, he planned to carry out an attack at an unknown time on high-ranking politicians and public figures who stood up for what the accused regarded as an especially refugee-friendly policy,” said the prosecutors’ statement. “He wanted people to believe that his attacks were related to radical Islamist terrorism committed by somebody who had been granted asylum.”
Among the targets were German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, Greens politician Claudia Roth, and former president Joachim Gauck.
In his stockpile were four firearms, including an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and fifty explosive devices, some of which appear to have been taken from military storage. The most bizarre part of the plan included Franco Hans assuming the identity of an undocumented refugee and living in a hostel on benefits for several months, despite speaking no foreign languages, while receiving state benefits.
Previous – more severe – charges of planning a terrorist attack, leveled against him and two other soldiers, were dismissed by a top criminal court in November due to a lack of sufficient evidence
A wide-ranging investigation into 275 cases of far-right sympathizers in the German army was launched by the German Defense Ministry in spring 2017. The suspected neo-Nazis were reported to have left racist comments online, made Nazi salutes as well as verbally abused fellow servicemen of migrant origin. As a result of the probe, numerous Nazi-era memorabilia, including posters and munitions, were discovered in army barracks, as German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen outlined reforms aimed at facilitating the reporting of incidents and enhancing political education of the troops.
Right-wing sentiment has been on the rise as Germany struggles with an influx of refugees and migrants brought on by the so-called “open door” policy championed by Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel. The backlash cost Merkel’s government a significant chunk of its popularity and propelled the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party into Germany’s federal parliament for the first time in September’s election.
After Franco A.’s case emerged, Germany said it would review 2,000 asylum applications linked to the case and up to 100,000 decisions to grant asylum in total. Germany is struggling to process all the applications for refugee status from tens of thousands of asylum seekers after letting in about a million people in 2015 alone. The German government has since tightened its asylum policy, capping the number of arrivals at 200,000 for 2018.