Germany's Pegida founder on trial for incitement against foreigners

The founder of Germany's anti-Islam movement Pegida went on trial Tuesday for inciting hatred against foreigners after he referred to refugees as "cattle," "garbage" and a "dirty bunch" on Facebook last year.

Lutz Bachmann - the founder of Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West - appeared before a court in Dresden alongside his wife after being charged in October.

Prosecutors consider his posts to be maliciously derisive, inciting hatred against foreigners, disruptive of the public order and an attack on the dignity of refugees.

Dresden is the birthplace of Pegida, which is bitterly opposed to Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy and holds weekly rallies in opposition to what its members perceive as the Islamization of German society by Muslim immigrants.

Bachmann regularly uses social media to convey Pegida's main messages: that refugees are "criminal invaders" and that the "lying press" is colluding with the government to promote a romanticized version of multiculturalism.

Bachmann, who faces up to five years in prison if found guilty, has dismissed the charges against him as a politically motivated attempt to "discredit my person and Pegida," he said on Facebook when the trial was announced.

The Pegida leader was on probation when he made the comments. He has a criminal record that includes aggravated theft, dealing cocaine, drink driving and failure to pay child support.

Protesters - both in favour of Pegida's cause and against - gathered outside the Dresden court on Tuesday. The court's 100 seats were all taken as the trial opened and several dozen attendees were forced to remain outside.

The group almost disappeared from Germany's political scene last year amid a series of high-profile resignations by its leaders, including Bachmann. Other scandals included the surfacing of 'selfies' in which Bachmann is seen wearing a Hitler moustache and hairstyle.

The group was given a new lease of life in the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Paris and as migration into Europe reached new highs, but has failed to regain the momentum it had early last year.

Last update: Tue, 19/04/2016 - 16:10
Author: 

More from Europe

Despite defeat, Austrian far-right aims for big vote take in 2017

This weekend's loss in the Austrian presidential election will not deter Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe)...

Malta becomes first country to ban gay conversion therapy

Malta's human rights commission on Tuesday hailed parliament's decision to ban gay conversion therapy, the first...

Shooting of Danish police officer triggers major security response

A Danish police officer was injured in a shooting Tuesday outside a police station in a suburb west of Copenhagen,...

EU official: Brexit negotiations must be completed by October 2018

Negotiations on Britain's exit from the European Union must be completed by October 2018, the EU's top Brexit...

Merkel calls for burqa ban as her party toughens asylum stance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a burqa ban wherever possible on Monday at her conservative Christian...