A court in Germany has convicted a shopkeeper of sedition after he put up a sign asking for asylum seekers to stay out because of negative experiences he’d had in the past.
An unnamed 54-year-old shopkeeper from Selb, Germany, is facing thousands of euros in fines after putting up a sign that read, “asylum seekers have to stay outside” in his shop window. After deliberation, the court determined he was guilty of sedition, or hate speech, for not allowing asylum seekers into his place of business, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Many businesses in Germany, from butchers to corner shops, often put up signs saying “no dogs allowed” or “dogs must stay outside.” The shopkeeper put his “asylum seekers must stay outside” alongside an image of a dog. The 54-year old received harsh criticism from locals who eventually had him taken to court.
Judge in the case Roland Kastner explained that the dog was the tipping point for his decision to fine the man. “He could have written by the door: ‘There is nothing for asylum seekers here’ without any problem, but without the dog part,” he said. The judge noted that the statement would have fallen under freedom of expression if the connotation between the asylum seekers and dogs hadn’t been made.
While the shopkeeper remained silent throughout the trial, his lawyer explained that the man wasn’t racist or prejudiced but rather put the sign up after having bad experiences with asylum seekers in his business.
He claimed that on one occasion asylum seekers had lit up cannabis despite there being highly combustible material in the vicinity. The lawyer argued the shopkeeper was not xenophobic but trying to protect his business.
Police also commented that they believed the man’s intentions were not xenophobic noting that he took down the sign after being informed he would stand trial. The defence lawyer claimed that after the news broke of the sign the shopkeeper was abused as a racist on social media, had faeces smeared on his window, and his car’s tires loosened.
The shopkeeper from Selb is the latest person in Germany to be fined or sentenced to prison time for what are considered “seditious” or “hateful remarks”. Earlier this year the German police conducted a series of raids of homes of people who had posted negative statements about migrants and asylum seekers online.
Germany is not the only country to crack down on speech about migrants. In the Netherlands Dutch politician Geert Widlers currently faces charges of hate speech for a speech he gave in 2014 on the subject of Moroccans in the country. Also, in Austria Viennese authorities are investigating the possibility of charging Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache for inflammatory posts made by other users on his Facebook page.