Germany: Trial of right-wing extremist Lutz Bachmann of Pegida begins
On 20 April the trial of Lutz Bachmann, the leader of the "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" (Pegida) movement, began in Dresden accompanied by an exceptional degree of interest from the media and the public. If convicted he faces up to five years in prison for inciting hatred against refugees.
As the trial opened, both Pegida sympathizers and opponents of the movement demonstrated in front of the courthouse. According to the state prosecutor, Bachmann committed the incitement of hatred in September 2014 by posting comments to Facebook calling refugees "dirty scum", "garbage" and "intrusive insects".
Should he be convicted, the minimum sentence he could receive would be three months in prison. Bachmann cannot avoid doing time by paying a fine because he has previously been given a suspended sentence for a different crime.
Bachmann's attorney called on the court to acquit her client. She said Bachmann had already apologized for his words when he spoke at a Pegida demonstration.
The court did not accede to the request. The trial should last until 10 May at a minimum.
The opening of the trial was accompanied by an exceptional level of interest from both the media and the public. Press accreditation passes ran out long before the trial began, 100 seats in the courtroom for the public were rapidly filled, and 50 people were unable to be admitted.
At the demonstration in front of the courthouse, the adherents of Pegida carried banners demanding their leader's release, while opponents shouted "Bachmann belongs behind bars." Bachmann has repeatedly made controversial posts to Facebook.
Last January a photograph was posted to the social network of Bachmann with a small mustache and made up to look like Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. He had to leave his leadership post at Pegida briefly because of that incident, but returned to it a month later.
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