Czech Constitutional Court upholds suspended sentence for Nazi symbol on vehicle
The Czech Constitutional Court has rejected the complaint of a driver who pasted the image of the Nazi Third Reich Eagle and swastika, i.e., a symbol of Nazi Germany, across the rear windshield of his vehicle. He was convicted, given a suspended sentence, and has appealed.
In his constitutional complaint, the man emphasized that the Nazi swastika on his vehicle had been partially obscured by a "BMW" sticker on the windshield and claimed his aim had decidedly not been to promote Nazism, but just to express his enthusiasm for BMW automobiles. "If the plaintiff actually wanted to just degrade the Nazi symbol and highlight the BMW brand, there is no choice but to state that he chose (at a minimum) a very inappropriate, unsuitable method for doing so which actually entailed criminal liability for expressing sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms," the court's resolution, available in the judicial database, reads.
The man also did not succeed with another argument referencing the fact that the anti-Fascist movement uses the image of the Nazi swastika with a line crossed through it without anybody finding anything extremist about the depiction of the swastika in that context. The court acknowledged that the mere use of a symbol in and of itself does not meet the subjective definition of the facts that give rise to this crime - what is always decisive is the intention with which a person uses a symbol.
"The will to espouse Nazi ideas is not expressed, for example, in the case of the production of an historical film depicting that era, nor in a situation when a person is obviously expressing disagreement with that ideology through particular symbols. Nothing of the sort, however, is possible to infer in the plaintiff's case," the justices wrote.
The District Court in Kladno sentenced the man in November 2015 to half a year in prison, suspended for 12 months, and the Regional Court in Prague upheld that decision this past February, as did the Supreme Court, according to which, it is generally known what the Nazi Third Reich Eagle and swastika represent, i.e., that those symbols are connected with Nazism and that the owner of the vehicle knew that when he used the symbol. "In this case, the accused knew the meaning of the symbols used and if he publicly displayed them on his vehicle, that was an expression of sympathy for that meaning," the Supreme Court ruled.
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