A German court on Thursday sentenced a 33-year-old man to eight months probation and a fine of €2,000 ($2,300) for making the Hitler salute during far-right protests in Chemnitz.
The conviction comes just two weeks after a wave of violent anti-migrant demonstrations and counterprotests broke out in the eastern German city. It is the first sentence relating to the unrest.
The man had been accused of displaying the publicly banned greeting during a march on September 1, which was organized by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement and the ethno-nationalist Pro Chemnitz group. He was convicted of using symbols of a banned organization, assaulting law enforcement and attempted assault.
The district court in Chemnitz has implemented fast-track criminal procedures in order to process all the suspects charged with violating Germany's stringent hate-speech laws. The Hitler salute, swastikas and other Nazi symbols are all strictly prohibited in public. On Friday, a 34-year-old also faces trial on the same charge.
Politicians in Berlin have praised the city for dealing with crimes so efficiently. Stephan Harbarth, the Bundestag vice-chair for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), called it "a good signal … it shows that our constitutional state works."
The tension in Chemnitz touched off in the last weekend of August, when a 35-year-old man was stabbed to death, allegedly by refugees. Right-wing groups capitalized on the tragedy and launched a series of xenophobic rallies, which were met with even larger counterdemonstrations. Dozens were injured in scuffles that broke out between the groups.
Pro Chemnitz has called for another rally in the city center on Friday.
This week saw the "Wolves are Back" sculpture arrive in Chemnitz. The art project displays 10 snarling bronze wolves performing the Hitler salute. The organizers say the installation protests the "growing hatred" in the city.
es/rt (AFP, Reuters)