German regional leader of far-right party in court over allegations of ‘knowingly’ shouting Nazi slogan | World News

A regional leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is being tried in court over allegations he knowingly used a Nazi slogan at the end of a speech.

Former history teacher Bjorn Hocke, 52, is the leader of the AfD in the eastern state of Thuringia, and a powerful figure on the party’s hard right.

On Thursday, the opening day of the trial that threatens to derail his career, Hocke sat in the state court in Halle, tight-lipped and inscrutable.

He is accused of ending a speech in nearby Merseburg in May 2021 with the words “Everything for Germany!”

Prosecutors allege Hocke, who has been leading the party in Thuringia since 2013, knew the phrase used to be a slogan of the Nazi SA storm troopers.

A conviction could disqualify him from taking part in regional elections held in his home state in September, where his party is currently leading in the polls.

“If the defendant is sentenced for six months or more, he loses his right to actively or passively take part in the election during that period,” court spokeswoman, Dr Adina Kessler-Jensch, told reporters cramming into the courtroom.

A conviction could disqualify Hocke from taking part in regional elections. Pic: AP

“A conviction could carry a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years,” she added.

As Germany’s legal system doesn’t involve entering formal pleas, Hocke remained silent throughout the trial, speaking only when asked his date of birth and place of residence.

Amid a heavy police presence, around 570 protesters had gathered outside the court building, holding a large banner reading: “Bjorn Hocke is a Nazi” and chanting: “All of Halle hates the AfD”.

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A few Hocke supporters showed up too.

“What is happening here is a disgrace. Freedom of expression is no longer possible, it is like during Communist times,” Thomas, an AfD voter who declined to give his full name, said.

“There can be no other verdict than not guilty.”

On social media, Hocke posted about free speech.

“Once again, Germany is at the forefront of oppressing political opponents and suppressing free speech,” he posted on X on 6 April.

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Hocke faces another count of using the same phrase at a party in Gera last December “in certain knowledge of the punishability” of the slogan, prosecutors said.

They say that Hocke said “Everything for …” and encouraged the audience to shout “Germany!”

It has been decided that that count will be tried separately because Hocke’s defence lawyers recently changed, German news agency DPA reported.

Hocke insisted in a debate with a conservative rival last week that he wasn’t aware “Everything for Germany!” was a Nazi slogan and claimed that many others have used it.

“Everyone out there knows it’s an everyday saying,” he said on Welt television.


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