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‘I wasn’t aware’: Far-right regional leader of Germany’s AfD in court for final day of Nazi slogan trial

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One of Germany’s most prominent far right politicians is expected to hear if he has been found guilty of using a banned Nazi slogan.

Björn Höcke, one of the leading figures of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is due in court in Halle for the final day of his trial.

He is charged with knowingly using a Nazi slogan at a rally in 2021, an act which is forbidden under German law.

The trial heard Höcke used the slogan “Alles für Deutschland” (Everything for Germany) at the AfD event in May 2021.

The phrase is associated with the SA or Storm Troopers, the paramilitary wing of the National Socialist party also known as the Brownshirts.

They played a significant role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Prosecutors claim he knew the phrase was banned but he told the court he is “completely innocent”.

The 52-year-old has led the AfD’s 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 1 September.

It is one of three branches that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has under official surveillance as a “proven right-wing extremist” group.

At their recent annual general meeting, Höcke told Sky News he believed the legal case was politically motivated.

“I’m seeing something similar in the USA. Donald Trump is also on trial there and he too is being slowed down. He is hampered in all his development opportunities. I think that’s the point. So for me, the whole thing is a political conspiracy,” he said.

“But as a former history teacher were you not aware of the Nazi links?” I asked.

“No, I wasn’t aware. It’s a commonplace saying which unfortunately was once burned by the Nazis,” he replied.

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.

Anti-AfD protestors have been gathering outside the court during the trial.

“Together against fascism,” they shouted as the hearings took place.

Protestors against AfD's Björn Höcke outside a courtroom where he is on trial for using a Nazi slogan
Protestors against AfD's Björn Höcke outside a courtroom where he is on trial for using a Nazi slogan

“We must not tolerate slogans that we know are leading us in the wrong direction historically,” Lennard Giessenberg told reporters.

“I hope he gets the maximum penalty and that a sign will be sent,” added Sven.

This case is among a string of controversies facing the AfD.

Earlier this year there were mass protests across Germany after a leaked report revealed some members attended a meeting where the mass deportation of migrants was discussed.

Last month, an AfD aide was accused of spying for China.

Despite this, the party is still second in the polls and many back Höcke.

“Björn Höcke is one of the best and most sincere patriots and politicians we have in this party,” said Eric Engelhardt, a member AfD’s youth wing in Thuringia.

He believes Höcke is exactly what Germany needs.

While a guilty verdict could in theory mean a prison sentence, a fine is a more likely punishment.

The outcome of the trial is unlikely to impact Höcke’s support among the hardcore which seemingly remains undented.

On Monday, a German high court ruled domestic security services could continue to treat the AfD as a potentially extremist party, meaning they retain the right to keep it under surveillance.

The party said it would appeal.

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