Verdict against AfD politician: only a fine for Höcke

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Written By Maya Cantina

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The Halle regional court convicts the AfD politician over an SA slogan, but does not meet the prosecutor’s demands. Höcke appears to be unreasonable in court.

Höcke opens his eyes wide

Doesn’t want to know the SA slogan: Thuringia’s AfD leader Björn Höcke Photo: Ronny Hartmann/afp Pool via dpa

HALLE (SAALE) taz | The chairman Jan Stengel is brief: the Halle regional court sentenced Björn Höcke to 100 daily rates of 130 euros each for using the symbols of unconstitutional and terrorist organizations. It is assumed that the AfD politician deliberately used the slogan of the National Socialist Sturmabteilung (SA) in a speech in 2021, it said on Tuesday evening.

The evidence suggested this, Stengel justified the verdict. Höcke is eloquent, well-educated and, as head of the Thuringian AfD, should have known about previous cases in which AfD politicians in the neighboring states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt had gotten into legal trouble because of the slogan. Höcke also said several times that he wanted to be able to say more. The “pretext of freedom of expression” is “being seriously challenged,” Stengel said.

The prosecutor demands a prison sentence

Björn Höcke saw everything very differently: Höcke shook his head several times during the statement. Shortly before, he had protested his innocence and violently attacked prosecutor Benedikt Bernzen. In his closing argument in the afternoon, he called for a six-month suspended prison sentence for Hocke.

On the one hand, Höcke had previously made similar statements and showed no insight after the crime. He used the unknown slogan widely and made it socially acceptable again. “The copycat rate is shockingly high,” says Bernzen, referring to comments on social media. On the other hand, Höcke does not show the slightest respect for the court. But Judge Stengel said a little later in his ruling that a prison sentence would be too high for someone without a previous conviction.

Höcke is disappointed

However, Höcke’s three lawyers each called for their client’s acquittal in individual pleas. The SA slogan “Everything for Germany” is a common expression and Höcke could not have known that the three words were punishable. In the opinion of the defense, criminal liability has not been proven at all. According to lawyer Ulrich Vosgerau, there is no clearly demonstrable connection with the Nazi dictatorship. Freedom of expression is at risk and he plans to submit the case to the European Court of Human Rights for a ruling.

Then Björn Höcke stood up, straightened his light blue tie and buttoned his jacket. As the defendant, he had the last word before the verdict. And with that he accused the Public Prosecution Service of having acted politically and activist and of apparently having a caricature of him. “That was very disappointing for me personally,” said Höcke.

The original facts are beyond dispute: Höcke said in 2021 before about 250 listeners in Merseburg on the occasion of the state election campaign in Saxony-Anhalt: “Everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for the fatherland, everything for Germany.” the public prosecutor accused Höcke of consciously using the SA slogans Höcke would have been aware of her. If that were true, the crime would not have been committed. Ignorance would protect him in this case.

In the context of multiple elections

The process takes place in the context of several elections: the municipalities of Thuringia vote on May 26, the European elections on June 9 and the state elections in Thuringia on September 1. Surveys on the latter show that the AfD is currently around 30 percent.

It is against this background that it is staged Höcke as a prosecuted opposition politician. He repeatedly publicly invokes freedom of expression. His defenders also argue in court that the SA formula was not used exclusively by the SA, but also by others – including enemies of the Nazi dictatorship.

To substantiate this, the defense has invited Karlheinz Weißmann as an expert witness. The former history teacher was often concerned with political symbols. He is also considered one of the pioneers of the New Right and founded the Institute for State Policy together with Götz Kubitschek in 2000, which he headed for more than thirteen years. He explained in court on Tuesday that the NSDAP had used what was popular. She also hoped for broad support with the slogan ‘Everything for Germany’. He did not say what Höcke was hoping for.

Key point from expert witness Weißmann: Like other Nazi symbols, the slogan had already been used by others and was not particularly relevant to the SA.

Slogan popular with neo-Nazis

Judge Jan Stengel then spoke and read from an SA magazine. There was an obituary for the SA leader who died in 1943: “Viktor Lutze fulfilled the SA’s high and sacred law ‘All for Germany’ until his last breath. Did Weißmann know the passage?” No, he doesn’t know – but you have to interpret it, Weißmann said quickly, to see if it’s just a phrase.

However, the slogan was used by neo-Nazis long after the Nazi dictatorship, as sociologist Andreas Kemper explained to the taz before the day of the trial. NPD, Free Comradeships and other neo-Nazi organizations made use of it. “With this saying they essentially aligned themselves with National Socialism.” The goal: to normalize Nazi language so that Nazi propaganda appears more innocent.

Kemper has been studying Höcke’s language for a long time and considers it unlikely that he did not know the slogan. ‘Everything for Germany’ has its own content that matches Goebbels’ desire for fanaticism: ‘You are nothing, your people are everything. It was about total dedication to the cause,” Kemper said when asked by Taz.

After the verdict, Kemper said it was good that further proceedings were pending because of Höcke’s choice of words. A case originally related to the now convicted case concerns a speech by the AfD politician in Gera. There he complained about the persecution against him and repeated the first two words of the SA slogan. This is evident from a video recording. He then waved to the crowd, to his “friends,” as he calls them, and they replied, “Germany!”

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