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

World

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.

At the trial at the state court in Halle, Hocke is charged with using symbols of unconstitutional organisations.

Hocke, whose branch is one of three that the domestic intelligence agency has under official surveillance as a “proven right-wing extremist” group, 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.

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He faces up to three years in jail or a fine if found guilty. As Germany’s legal system doesn’t involve entering formal pleas, it isn’t clear whether Hocke will respond to the charge in court.

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About 570 protesters gathered outside the court to protest against the politician, police said. Banners at the demonstration included “Bjorn Hocke is a Nazi” and “Stop AfD!”

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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 defense 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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