A German couple were taken to court and sentenced after they created a Facebook group that criticised migrants and the government’s mass migration policy.
The couple, who live in the German town of Vierkirchen, stood accused of inciting hatred toward migrants via the Facebook group that the pair had created called the “Anti-refugee movement” (AFB). The group is said, by the court, to have been a clear incitement against migrants and as a result both 27-year-old Peter M. and his 26-year-old wife Melanie M. were found guilty of hate speech, Merkur reports.
The statements on the Facebook group did not seem to contain anything overtly nationalistic or Nazi-inspired, but rather expressed deep concern about the situation in Germany relating to mass migration.
According to the court, the page, which has been taken down, in its first post stated: “The war and economic refugees are flooding our country. They bring terror, fear, sorrow. They rape our women and put our children at risk,” which along with a German flag as the groups profile photo, was enough to bring the couple to court for hate speech.
The group amassed around 900 followers in the two months that it was active. The beginning of the end for the group happened when a user reported the page to Facebook, who have been upfront about cooperating with the German government in censoring speech they deem as critical of migrants.
The Facebook user who reported the page took a further step and reported it to their local police station in Lübeck whereupon police were able to ascertain that the administrator of the page lived in Vierkirchen and handed the investigation over to the local police.
At the trial, Peter M. defended his remarks online and said: “One can not even express a critical opinion of refugees without getting labelled as a Nazi. I wanted to create a discussion forum where you can speak your mind about refugees.” Peter M. talked about how, in his role as an administrator of the group, he would weed out any pro-Nazi or radical remarks and delete such posts but since Facebook had deleted the page he couldn’t present the evidence to the court.
The judge in the case was unforgiving in his verdict on the site saying that “the description of the group is a series of generalisations with a clear right-wing background”. After sentencing Peter M. to a nine month suspended prison sentence and his wife to a fine of €1,200 the judge said: “I hope you understand the seriousness of the situation. If you sit in front of me again, you will end up in jail.”
The case bears similarities to other cases where Facebook and the German government have shut down pages critical of migrants. A 16-year-old girl who complained that she feared for her safety in a video posted to Facebook had her page taken down, and police in Berlin raided the apartments of several Facebook and Twitter users for their anti-migrant comments online. PEGIDA leader Lutz Bachmann was also taken to court over comments he made on Facebook and found guilty of hate speech.