German right leader fined in race trial

Lutz Bachmann, holding papers, walking through a modern wooden door with a woman behind himImage copyright

Image caption

Lutz Bachmann and his wife Vicky left the courtroom in Dresden together

The founder and leader of the German anti-Islam movement, Pegida, has been convicted of inciting racial hatred.

Lutz Bachmann escaped a prison sentence but was fined €9,600 (£7,600; $11,000) for calling refugees “scum”.

Bachmann branded the case a political show trial. His lawyer said he had not written the remarks, but the court saw a video of him defending them.

His lawyers said they would appeal. Prosecutors, who sought a seven-month jail sentence, are also appealing.

Pegida organises regular demonstrations against Islam and asylum seekers.

Who goes to Pegida rallies?

Pegida in 60 seconds

The rallies drew thousands of people a week at their inception in the eastern city of Dresden, and spread across German cities as a protest again Germany’s open door policy for refugees, but they have drawn fewer people in recent months.

The anti-immigration demonstrations have often been met by counter-protests. Rival groups of protesters gathered outside the court in Dresden before the hearing on Tuesday.

Lutz Bachmann, 43, was accused of inciting racial hatred in Facebook posts, in which he called refugees “cattle”, “scumbags” and “filth”.

His lawyer, Katja Reichel, reminded the court that it was possible to hack Facebook accounts.

But the prosecution showed the court a video of Bachmann addressing a Pegida rally in February 2015. In his speech, he said his post used “a few words that any of us would use”.

The month before, he had apologised for what he called “ill-considered” remarks.

The judge, Hans Hlavka, told the court that it was “clear” that Bachmann was responsible for the comments. He said the insults could not be considered to be free speech.

Mr Bachmann previously stood down as head of Pegida, after photographs emerged of him dressed as Adolf Hitler.

What is Pegida?

  • Acronym for Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)
  • Umbrella group for German right-wingers, attracting support from mainstream conservatives to neo-Nazi factions and football hooligans
  • Holds street protests against what it sees as a dangerous rise in the influence of Islam over European countries
  • Claims not to be racist or xenophobic
  • 19-point manifesto says the movement opposes extremism and calls for protection of Germany’s Judeo-Christian culture

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