Founder of Germany's far-right Pegida fined for inciting hatred

 Pegida co-founder Lutz Bachmann (centre) speaking after the verdict against him was read at the district court in Dresden, Germany, on May 3, 2016.
Pegida co-founder Lutz Bachmann (centre) speaking after the verdict against him was read at the district court in Dresden, Germany, on May 3, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (AFP) - The founder of Germany's xenophobic and anti-Islamic Pegida movement was on Tuesday (May 3) convicted of inciting racial hatred and fined nearly 10,000 euros for branding refugees "cattle" and "scum" on social media.

Mr Lutz Bachmann, founder of the far-right "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident" movement, was was ordered to pay €9,600 (S$15,000) over the widely shared Facebook posts.

State prosecutors had demanded seven months jail in the trial held in the eastern city of Dresden, while the defence had called for an acquittal.

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

Mr Bachmann, 43, who branded 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 defence lawyer Katja Reichel insisted Mr Bachmann had not written the offending words, and that rather his Facebook account may have been "hacked".

However, the court also watched video footage of a Pegida rally in January 2015 where Mr Bachmann appeared to be defending the Facebook comments, saying he had merely "used words that everyone has used at least once".

Pegida rallies at that time peaked at around 25,000 people, but interest then began to wane following wide coverage of Mr Bachmann's overtly racist comments and the surfacing 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.

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

A trained chef and now running a public relations agency, Mr Bachmann has previously been convicted of drug, theft and assault charges.

In the late 1990s, he fled Germany for South Africa to avoid a jail term, but was extradited two years later and served some 14 months behind bars in Germany.