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German army officer sentenced to jail for attack plan

FRANKFURT :A German army officer who posed as a Syrian asylum seeker was sentenced to five and a half years in prison on Friday for planning to attack one or more politicians and multiple weapons offenses.

The elaborate ploy, uncovered in 2017, shocked Germans and stirred a debate about the depth of right-wing radicalism in the country's military.

The case is particularly sensitive for Germany, where since World War Two, governments have seen a commitment to human rights and opposition to extremism as key elements in atoning for the crimes of Nazi Germany and rebuilding allies' confidence.

"The court found that the defendant had a right-wing extremist, nationalist and racist attitude that had solidified for years," it said.

Prosecutors said the man, identified as Franco A., posed under a false identity and planned an attack he hoped would be blamed on refugees and migrants.

They also said Franco A. stole ammunition from the German military, with former justice minister Heiko Maas or the former parliament's vice-president Claudia Roth seen as possible targets of an attack.

Franco A., who had denied the charges, was arrested in Vienna in February 2017 while trying to retrieve a loaded pistol he had hidden in the airport toilets.

He stood sporting a dark beard and pony tail in a Frankfurt court as the verdict was read out more than a year after the trial began.

The judge, after announcing the guilty verdict and five and a half years jail sentence, described in detail evidence of Franco A's racist and anti-Semitic views, some of them written in a master's thesis and others expressed to individuals.

The judge also detailed evidence of plans to carry out an attack, partly based on handwritten notes and sketches.

"The defendant says he didn't plan an attack but the evidence says otherwise," the judge said.

Franco A.'s lawyer said he would appeal, while the prosecutor in the case said the ruling was a victory in the fight against right-wing extremism and racism.

Franco A appeared free of emotion, his head slightly bowed with his hands folded in his lap, as the presiding judge elaborated for some 90 minutes about the ruling.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Tom Sims, editing by Rachel More, Thomas Escritt and Philippa Fletcher)

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