Anti-Islamic group's founder guilty of inciting racial hatred

Bachmann in a pair of glasses that mimic the bars printed over people's eyes in censored photos.
Bachmann in a pair of glasses that mimic the bars printed over people's eyes in censored photos.

BERLIN • The founder of the German xenophobic and anti-Islamic movement Pegida has been convicted of inciting racial hatred and fined €9,600 (S$15,000) for branding refugees "cattle" and "scum" on social media.

Lutz Bachmann, founder of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident movement, was found guilty on Tuesday over the Facebook posts.

The defence said it will appeal while prosecutors who had demanded a seven-month jail sentence said they may do the same.

Pegida bitterly opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal migration policy that brought more than one million asylum seekers to Germany last year.

Bachmann, 43, who called the court case a "political show trial", made a defiant appearance when the trial started a week earlier, wearing a pair of glasses that mimicked the black bars printed over people's eyes in censored photos.

His lawyer insisted Bachmann had not written the offending words, and that his Facebook account may have been "hacked".

However, the court saw video footage of a Pegida rally in January last year, where Bachmann appeared to be defending the Facebook comments, saying he had merely "used words that everyone has used at least once".

Turnouts at Pegida rallies peaked at around 25,000 people then, but interest began to wane following wide coverage of Bachmann's racist comments and the appearance of selfies in which he sported a Hitler-style moustache and hairstyle.

The pendulum swung back a few months later, as tens of thousands of asylum seekers - many fleeing war in mostly Muslim countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - poured into Germany each week.

Bachmann has repeatedly labelled the newcomers "criminal invaders" and railed against "traitor" politicians and the "liar press", whom he blames for jointly promoting multi-culturalism.

He has previous convictions for drugs, theft and assault. In the late 1990s, he fled Germany for South Africa to avoid a jail term, but was extradited later and served 14 months behind bars in Germany.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Anti-Islamic group's founder guilty of inciting racial hatred'. Print Edition | Subscribe