PEGIDA leader goes on trial in Germany for incitement

AP News
Posted: Apr 19, 2016 11:11 AM
PEGIDA leader goes on trial in Germany for incitement

BERLIN (AP) — One of the founders of the German anti-immigration group PEGIDA went on trial Tuesday, charged with incitement over Facebook posts in which he allegedly called foreigners "cattle" and "trash."

Lutz Bachmann's trial at the district court in the eastern city of Dresden is scheduled to last until May 10. Incitement can carry a prison sentence of up to five years.

Bachmann is accused of trying to incite Germans against refugees with the social media posts in September 2014.

Bachmann expressed regret shortly after the postings — and photos of him posing as Adolf Hitler — surfaced. He described them as "ill-considered comments that I wouldn't make in this way today" and apologized for harming PEGIDA.

Bachmann has denied the charges, saying the trial is "purely politically motivated" and meant to discredit him and the group. His lawyer, Katja Reichel, rejected the charges in court Tuesday, saying he didn't write the postings attributed to him.

As the trial opened, supporters staged a protest outside the court bearing banners calling for "freedom for Lutz Bachmann." Opponents chanted "Bachmann in the slammer."

According to the Saechsische Zeitung daily, Bachmann has previously spent time in jail for burglary and possession of drugs.

PEGIDA, whose German acronym stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, has dismissed claims that it cooperates with neo-Nazi groups, though far-right extremists regularly take part in its weekly protests in Dresden, the capital of Saxony.

The state has become a hotbed of anti-immigrant violence in recent years. Authorities arrested five people in Saxony on Tuesday on suspicion of founding a right-wing terror group to attack refugee homes and other facilities. The "Freital Group," named after a suburb of Dresden, was formed in July last year or earlier.

Bachmann's trial is scheduled to resume May 3.