pegida protest-prosvjed.jpg
Photograph: EPA/BERND SETTNIK

The founder of Germany's anti-Islam movement Pegida was fined 9,600 euros (11,066 dollars) by a Dresden court on Tuesday for inciting hatred against foreigners after he referred to refugees as "cattle" and "garbage" on Facebook last year.

Lutz Bachmann - the founder of the Dresden-based movement Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West - was charged in October of authoring online posts that prosecutors called maliciously derisive, inciteful of hatred against foreigners, disruptive of the public order and an attack on the dignity of refugees.

Judge Hans Hlavka said there was no doubt that Bachmann was the author of the offending comments, despite the 43-year-old's repeated denials of writing them.

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

Bachmann, who has had previous convictions for theft and drug dealing, did not immediately comment on Tuesday's sentence.

Hlavka said Bachmann's comments at a Pegida rally were a "clear confession of guilt," adding the defendant could not claim freedom of opinion.

At the rally in question, Bachmann had apologised for words "which everyone had used in the pub."

"There is no freedom of opinion if the law is broken," Hlavka argued, saying Bachmann had attacked the human dignity of refugees and disturbed the public peace.

The public prosecution service wants to appeal the sentence. It had called for a seven-month custodial sentence without probation.

The Dresden court's sentence is not final, and the defence had called for an acquittal.

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