Co-leader of Germany's far-right AfD party fined for using Nazi slogan

Co-leader of Germany's far-right AfD party fined for using Nazi slogan

Björn Höcke, who is one of the best-known figures in the far-right Alternative for Germany party, has been fined for using a Nazi slogan in a speech.

The verdict on Tuesday in his trial comes months before a regional election in the eastern state of Thuringia in which he plans to run for the governor’s job.

The state court in the eastern city of Halle convicted Höcke of using symbols of an unconstitutional organisation, German news agency dpa reported. It imposed a fine of 13,000 euros.

The charge can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Prosecutors had sought a six-month suspended sentence, whilst his defence lawyers argued for acquittal.

The case centred on a speech in Merseburg in May 2021 in which Höcke used the phrase “Everything for Germany!” Prosecutors contended he was aware of its origin as a slogan of the Nazis’ SA stormtroopers, but Höcke has argued that it is an “everyday saying.”

He testified at the trial that he is “completely innocent.” The former history teacher described himself as a “law-abiding citizen.”

The 52-year-old Höcke is an influential figure on the hard right of the AfD. He has led its regional branch in Thuringia since 2013, the year the party was founded, and is due to lead its campaign in a state election set for September 1.

He once called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame” and called for Germany to perform a “180-degree turn” in how it remembers its past. A party tribunal in 2018 rejected a bid to have him expelled.

Prosecutor Benedikt Bernzen argued in Tuesday’s closing arguments that Höcke had used Nazi vocabulary “strategically and systematically” in the past.

Höcke accused prosecutors of not looking for exonerating circumstances and argued that freedom of opinion is limited in Germany.