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|Prison for the Man With the Megaphone:
Dresden Court Passes a Harsh Sentence Against Participant in Anti-Nazi Protest of 2011
by Hendrik Lasch
"Eventually the population of Dresden has had enough" -- 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 father of a family 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 initial trial court anyway."
The skilled industrial mechanic was charged with coordinating and commanding, as a "ringleader," a violent breach of a police barricade in Dresden's Südvorstadt district, using a megaphone. Rocks were alleged to have been thrown, and police were allegedly attacked with sticks. In 2011, the police had attempted to keep the right-wing extremists and the counter-demonstrators separated on the opposite sides of the Elbe River, but were not numerically up to the task. The "Nazi-free Dresden" coalition 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 fierce skirmishes. In one case, hundreds of protestors confronted 14 police officers. While the barricade was stormed, some officers were injured. There were injuries from firecrackers, 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 prosecutor 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 prosecutor. The charge was particularly serious breach of the peace, aggravated battery, and assault. The prosecutor even demanded a two-and-a-half year sentence. The defense, on the other hand, did not regard it as proven that the accused really even was the man in the video. The defense also stated that the charge should have been at most simple breach of the 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. Furthermore, 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, had had enough.
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 a Neues Deutschland query. It is simply incomprehensible why the sentence was not at least suspended. 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 2011. Richwin is now placing his hopes in the appeal. Whereas the Dresden district court has become nationally known for its harsh judgments against participants in blockades and other protests, other courts have sometimes at least mitigated them.
The original article "Haft für den Mann am Megafon" was published by Neues Deutschland on 17 January 2013. Translation by Angelus Novus.