A German court ruled on Thursday that far-right organizations may use banned Nazi slogans if they are in a foreign language, overturning an earlier decision.
Members of extreme-right groups often disguise their neo-Nazi slogans
The Federal Court of Justice in Karslruhe overruled a fine imposed by a lower court against a neo-Nazi for possession of T-shirts with the slogan "Blood & Honour" written in English.
In 2005 the defendant was found in possession of 100 T-shirts in the back of his car. "Blood and Honour" is the translation for "Blut und Ehre" which was one of the guiding principles of the Hitler Youth during the Nazi era.
Announcing the verdict, presiding judge Joerg-Peter Becker admitted that Thursday's court ruling could open the floodgates, but said that this could not justify judging the case differently.
Authorities in Gera, in the eastern state of Thuringia, had deemed the shirts to be in violation of Germany's strict laws banning Nazi slogans.
The federal court said the use of the slogan in English decoupled it from its Nazi-era connotations and thus could not fall under a law banning the use of symbols from unconstitutional organizations.
But it scolded the lower court for failing to consider other charges against the defendant and referred the case back for a new trial.
"The lower court did not review whether the accused, by possessing T-shirts with an aggressive slogan, could be guilty of distributing propaganda for unconstitutional organizations or for abetting the organizational cohesion of the banned group Blood & Honour," it said in a statement.
The court in Gera is to now re-examine whether the T-shirt case is illegal for such other reasons.
A "C18" logo on the T-shirt stands for "Combat 18" and is derived from the initials of Adolf Hitler; A and H are the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, commonly used by neo-Nazi groups.
Combat 18 is the armed wing of the British neo-Nazi Organization Blood & Honour, which has carried out violent racist attacks on immigrants in the UK, Belgium, Russia and Germany.
Editor: Chuck Penfold