A 66-year-old German man has been given a suspended three-month prison sentence for hate speech after he distributed leaflets in his town calling migrants “parasites”.
The pensioner, referred to as Wilfried M. in local media, admitted to the crime and claimed he regretted his actions. According to prosecutors, on July 31, 2016 Wilfried handed out laminated leaflets that said,”Refugees go home” and “You are parasites” in the town of Werther, North Rhine-Westphalia, reports local paper Westfalen-Blatt.
“That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” said the 66-year-old who is retired and lives on the government’s Hartz IV benefit system. The court said that despite his admission, he was still guilty of “incitement to the people” and gave the man the minimum sentence of 3 months in prison suspended for a three-year period.
Prosecutors also noted the leaflets had been found in the area of a local asylum home, but the pensioner denied having placed them there, saying he had only put up fliers in the area around the Kreissparkasse cash machines and in the area between Ravensberger Strasse and the Netto Markt supermarket.
The pensioner said he had put up the leaflets in response to the way new asylum seekers behaved in the small town, which is home to around eleven and a half thousand people. According to Wilfried, the asylum seekers he saw in Werther were “disrespectful, demanding, and ungrateful”.
The lawyer for the defendant, Kerstin Koch, attempted to get the proceedings terminated by explaining the man had recently lost his wife to a failed operation and was barely managing to scrape by on the small allowance he was receiving from the government.
But both the prosecutor and the judge did not see his situation as valid extenuating circumstances and the judge prioritised the defence of the “human dignity” of migrants who had been insulted. The judge also handed down a €300 fine to the cash-strapped pensioner to be paid in €15-a-month instalments.
Hate speech laws in Germany and the prosecution of people for anti-mass migration or anti-migrant opinions has skyrocketed over the course of the migrant crisis. In some cases, men and women have been arrested and taken to court for migrant-critical social media posts and others have even had their homes raided by police for hate speech.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is looking to expand the crackdown on hate speech and “fake news” this year and has announced they will even fine platforms like Facebook if they do not take down hate speech posts in a timely enough manner.