June 7, 2018 / 7:24 PM / 10 days ago

German court drops most serious charge against soldier who tried to frame refugees

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court on Thursday dismissed the most serious charge against a German soldier who had been accused of plotting to kill senior politicians because of their support for refugees, then pin the blame on asylum seekers.

The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court said it was very likely that the officer, identified as Franco Hans A., had acquired two pistols, two rifles and 51 explosive devices, but it was not likely that he had made a firm decision to carry out a serious subversive act.

The decision, which can still be appealed by the federal prosecutor’s office, means the soldier will face lesser charges, including violations of German military weapons and gun laws, in the regional court in Darmstadt.

He was arrested in April 2017, in a case that shocked Germans and stirred a debate about the depth of right-wing radicalism in the Bundeswehr military.

Prosecutors suspect that he and two accomplices wanted to implicate refugees in their planned attack by posing as an asylum seeker.

Franco Hans A., who served with an army battalion stationed in France, had used a fake identity to register as a Syrian refugee and moved into a shelter for migrants in Bavaria even though he speaks no Arabic, the prosecutors said.

The Frankfurt court decision said there was evidence that the soldier had “nationalistic” views and that he had seriously considered killing senior politicians. But it said it said there was insufficient evidence to support the more serious charge.

The officer was held for months, but was released in November after the German Federal Supreme Court also said it did not see sufficient evidence to support charges that he was preparing a serious subversive act.

It was not immediately clear when legal proceedings would begin in the lower court on the lesser charges.

Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Larry King

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