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Germany

Reversing Earlier Call, Court Allows Anti-Nazi Symbol Sale

Reversing another judge's decision, a German court has allowed a mail order salesman of anti-Nazi symbols to continue peddling images of a crossed-out swastika.

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Signs reading "we reserve the right to oppose," show the crossed-out swastika

A German high court overruled an earlier verdict of a minor court, which fined the seller of anti-Nazi symbols for using the infamous swastika symbol on his products.

In September last year, the minor court in Stuttgart ruled that the crossed-out swastika used by the mail order company for its anti-Nazi badges would make the Nazi symbol acceptable again in Germany.

But a High Court judge on Wendesday said such fears are unfounded -- and handed down a ruling that saved the small company.

Shaken faith

Schwarzer Mann vor Hakenkreuz- Graffiti

Graffiti swastika symbols are not allowed in Germany -- but they still can be found

Jürgen Kamm, a staunch anti-Nazi activist, believes more Germans should take a public stand against the rise of Germany’s far-right political parties. His mail order company in southern Germany, "Nix Gut" (No Good) specializes in selling anti-Nazi T-Shirts, badges and lapel pins.

One of his logos -- a swastika with a thick red line through it -- is a popular image among leftist campaigners in Germany.

In September last year, Kamm’s belief in German democracy was badly shaken when a court in Stuttgart slapped a hefty fine of 3,500 euros ($4,600) on him and banned the distribution of the crossed-out swastika.

Unique symbol

After Thursday’s ruling by the German High Court though, Kamm said he regained confidence in state authorities.

"For me it’s important that I can use this symbol again," Kamm said. "There is no other that shows so precisely that the person wearing it is against Nazism. I cannot imagine what the judge was thinking when he banned the symbol -- one that was even used by the World Football Association in its fight against racism and intolerance."

High Court Judge Gerhardt Altvater supported Kamm’s view. In his ruling, he said the defendant clearly rejected Nazi ideology and didn’t intend to foster it. He also said that the public use of the swastika in Germany can only go unpunished when it denounces Hitler’s regime in an unmistakable fashion.

Under German law, the use of the swastika, as well as raising the arm in a Hitler salute and wearing a Nazi uniform, is punishable with a fine or up to three years in prison.

Good news for staff

Bernhard Häusler, the prosecutor in Stuttgart, still believes Kamm’s mail order business is breaking this taboo.

Das Buch Fussball unterm Hakenkreuz

The 'Heil Hitler' salute is also banned.

"What happened under this Nazi symbol was simply too horrific to allow the swastika to be used in the present-day political debate," he said. "That is why I’m convinced that the swastika should remain banned from mass market distribution."

The High Court ruling is also good news for eight disabled people who make up about half of the staff of Jürgen Kamm’s mail order service, as well as for some 40 partly prominent Germans who used his crossed-out swastika symbol in public and were subsequently charged by the Stuttgart prosecutor with displaying unconstitutional symbols. They include Green Party leader Claudia Roth, who turned herself in to police in protest at the original ruling, and German trade union boss Michael Sommer, who wore such a badge during a union demonstration.

At the time, protests against the verdict were heard from across the political spectrum in a bid to urge the court to stop criminalizing people who were courageously fighting right-wing extremism.

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