Head of the far-right 'Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West' (PEGIDA) movement, Lutz Bachmann, has been found guilty of inciting hatred. He has been handed a fine of almost 10,000 euros.
A district court in the eastern German city of Dresden ruled on Tuesday that Lutz Bachmann must pay a penalty of 9,600 euros ($11,044), after being found guilty of inciting hatred.
Prosecutors had called for a seven-month prison sentence for Bachmann, while his defense pleaded for his acquittal.Tuesday's verdict is not yet legally binding, however.
The founder of the Islamic and xenophobic alliance, PEGIDA, was charged with inciting hatred in October 2015. According to the indictment, Bachmann insulted refugees on his Facebook page in September, 2014 when he described asylum seekers as "cattle," "scum," and "trash."
State prosecutors argued that, since the Internet is legally considered a public forum, the comment was enough to bring charges of inciting hatred with the potential to disturb public peace.
Bachmann denies charges
The 43-year-old - who branded the court case a "political show trial" - remained silent throughout court proceedings, leaving his defense lawyer to deny the allegations.
"The comments, came not from him, but from a stranger," Bachmann's laywer Katja Reichel, arguing that Bachmann's Facebook account could have been "hacked."
However, the court also watched video footage of a PEGIDA rally in January 2015 where Bachmann appeared to be defending the Facebook comments, saying he had merely "used words that everyone has used at least once."
Waning support for PEGIDA
Bachmann was previously convicted for drug dealing, theft and assault charges, and in the late 1990s he fled Germany for South Africa to avoid a jail term. He was extradited two years later and served some 14 months behind bars in Germany.
Since October 2014, PEGIDA has held almost weekly demonstrations against Islam, refugees, politicians and the media. At the height of their popularity in January 2015, the movement saw a turnout of some 25,000 protesters. Numbers have declined in recent months, however, with just 3,000 PEGIDA supporters marching at Monday's demonstration.