|Prison for the Man With the Megaphone
Dresden Court Passes a Harsh Sentence Against Participant in Anti-Nazi Protest of 2011
An alleged “ringleader” of protests against a Nazi march on February 19th, 2011 in Dresden was sentenced by a local court to a prison sentence of 22 months.
Report by Hendrik Lasch for the newspaper Neues Deutschland
“AT SOME point, the population of Dresden is sick of it all” – with this opinion, district judge Hans-Joachim Hlava justified his harsh sentence against a participant in an Anti-Nazi protest on February 19th, 2011 in the capital of the German state of Saxony. The 36-year-old family father was sentenced to a prison sentence of 22 months without probation. His attorney Sven Richwin regards an appeal as likely: he had no hope “ in the first level of jurisdiction anyway.”
The skilled industrial mechanic was charged with coordinating and commanding a forced breach of a police barricade in Dresden's Südvorstadt district as a “ringleader.” Rocks were alleged to have been thrown, and police were allegedly attacked with rods. In 2011, the police had attemped to separate the right-wing extremists from the counter-demonstration on both sides of the Elbe River, but were not numerically up to the task. The coalition “Dresden Nazifrei” in turn had called for a blockade of the Nazi march, which presupposed a “permeation” of police lines. The central principle of the “action consensus” was non-violence, however. This wasn't always followed: south of the main train station there were hefty skirmishes. In one case, hundreds of protestors confronted 14 police officers. While the barricade was stormed, some officers were injured. There were injuries from fireworks, lacerations, and bruises.
Whether or not the accused played a role that day, and if so, what kind, is an open question. One witness was not able to identify him in court. The state's attorney referred to a police video. In the video, a man of the same height as the accused could be seen. The action “exhibited great criminal energy” according to the state's attorney. The charge was severe disturbance of the public peace, grievous bodily injury, and libel. The state's attorney even demanded a two-and-a-half year sentence. The defence, on the other hand, did not regard it as proven that the accused really even was the man in the video. The defence also stated that the charge should have been at most simple disturbance of the public peace, and that his client could not be held responsible for the injuries to police officers.
Judge Hlava is of a different opinion: “you must also take responsibility for the deeds of others”, he said to the accused during sentencing. He also accused him of not stating and explaining “your position on violence” to the court. Futhermore, he also nebulously stated that the “political vita” of the 36-year-old shows “that you were there.” The judge made no effort to conceal that the sentence was also intended as a deterrent from the upcoming counter-demonstration against the Nazi march on February 13th. The historical date attracts right-wingers and “automatically also the left” and would be “politically exploited by both sides.” Residents of the city, the judge claimed, were sick of it.
Defense attorney Sven Richwin regards the sentence as excessive in comparison with similar cases, for example around the 1st of May demonstrations in Berlin: “it is beyond the pale”, he stated in response to an ND query. It is simply not comprehensible why the sentence was not at least probationary. The 36-year-old is the father of one child, and has a full-time job working for the executive board of the party Die Linke. One of the curiosities of the trial was that a representative of his employer was questioned as a witness before the court, even though the accused did not start working there until after February of 2011. Richwin is now placing his hopes in the appeal. Whereas the Dresden district court has become known for its harsh judgements against participants in blockades and other protests, other courts have sometimes at least ameliorated sentences.