A German military officer has now gone on trial, accused of having posed as a Syrian refugee and planning far-right terrorist attacks on politicians
Named only as Lt Franco A, the military officer, who was based in France, led an extraordinary double life, registered as a Syrian refugee named David Benjamin.
He was eventually caught back in 2017 trying to retrieve a handgun that was found by a cleaner in a toilet at the Vienna airport.
The soldier insists that he was not a far-right extremist and had not plotted terror attacks. Under Germany’s privacy rules, defendants’ surnames are not made revealed to the public.
The officer’s defence lawyer condemned what he had called a smear campaign against him, and the man told reporters that he was going to trial “with a clean conscience: I never planned anything to the detriment of anyone”.
This comes after President Joe Biden wanted a “path to ceasefire” between Israel and Gaza, the White House has said. The US has long been a staunch ally of Israel and has so far opposed the joint UN Security Council statement on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
His double life had been exposed when authorities discovered the fingerprints of the soldier that was based in Strasbourg matched those that he had used to register as a Syrian Christian asylum seeker, living three hours’ drive north near the city of Frankfurt.
Prosecutors believe that he had made a list of potential targets, including the German Foreign Minster Heiko Maas, the deputy speaker of the country’s parliament and a Jewish activist, and was intending to use his fake Syrian identity as a way to stage attacks and have them blamed on a refugee to then provoke anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany.
They cited a stockpile of both ammunition and explosives that the officer had hoarded within his parents’ basement which was later found in a house of one of his friends. Notes and recordings are also cited in which the soldier is said to be praising Adolf Hitler.
He is also alleged to have been part of a “Hannibal” network of survivalists that intelligence officers had believed was preparing for the collapse of the German state on a set day called “Day X”.
His arrest came following the 2015-16 influx of refugees arriving in Germany from Syria as well as asylum seekers from many other countries. But it was also one of the several cases that was linked to members of the military being part of Germany’s far right.
Within weeks of the soldier’s arrest, Nazi army memorabilia had been found on display within the common room of his base at Illkirch in Strasbourg, despite a ban in Germany on Nazi symbols.
This comes after Boris Johnson says he is urging Israel and Palestine to “step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint” following growing violence. After Hamas fired around 130 rockets at targets in Israel after another day of intensifying conflict which saw the destruction of a tower block in Gaza in an Israeli air strike.
Last year the defence minister said she was partially disbanding Germany’s KSK commando force because 20 members were suspected of extremism.
The case originally came to trial three years ago but was dismissed by a lower state court in Frankfurt, finding there was not an “overwhelmingly high probability” that he was planning an attack. Federal prosecutors appealed and the case has finally reached a higher court. If convicted the officer could face up to 10 years in jail.
The officer, who was part of the joint brigade of the French and German armies, denies the terrorism allegations against him. The reason he took on the identity of a Syrian refugee was to expose the flaws in Germany’s asylum system, he says.
Ahead of the trial he gave a series of interviews with international media.
“I wanted to get to the bottom of it personally, and check just how far the German authorities had abused the concept of asylum to the detriment of security,” he told France’s Le Figaro newspaper.
He describes being part of radical groups and explains the cache of weapons his parents’ house as self-defence, “to protect [his] family in an emergency”.