Lutz Bachmann, the founder of Germany’s far-right anti-Islamist movement, has practically made a habit out of appearing in court. Over the past few decades, the 43-year-old has been convicted of drug dealing, drunken driving, and assault, to name a few.
Now he’s back on trial in the eastern German city of Dresden on charges he incited racial hatred by posting on Facebook that refugees fleeing to Germany from war zones in the Middle East are “scumbags” and “filth.” He also referred to them as “cattle.”
He entered the courtroom Tuesday wearing a jean jacket and black sunglasses meant to mimic a censorship bar. Although he did not speak to reporters, in February he posted on social media that the case is “a constructed and politically motivated trial.”
Bachmann’s movement, PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of Europe), gained strength in its inflammatory social media presence, and by 2015 was hosting rallies in Germany that attracted tens of thousands of people.
According to the Dresden court, Bachmann’s comments, which date back to 2014 and were widely shared on social media, “disrupted public order” and were an “attack on the dignity” of innocent people fleeing war.
If Bachmann is found guilty, he could serve up to five years in prison.
His group’s rise has coincided with the emergence of other right-wing groups, an increase in hate speech toward migrants and refugees, as well as attacks on refugee camps and shelters throughout Germany. Many of his supporters later joined the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany, which has described Islam as a “foreign body in Germany.” This week, AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch, who is also a member of the European parliament, told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the party is “in favor of a ban on minarets, on muezzins, as well as full veils.”
Aiman Mazyek, chairman of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, said Monday that these remarks amount to religious hatred as extreme as Nazism. “For the first time since Hitler’s Germany there is a party that again seeks to discredit an entire religious community and threatens its existence,” Mazyek said.
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