Björn Höcke has to pay 13,000 euros because he used a banned SA slogan in the AfD election campaign. He previously described himself as a “politically persecuted person” and called the public prosecutor an “activist”. However, something else caused outrage in the court.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) is not only the home of clever minds, it also delivers world-exclusive news at breathtaking speed. This Tuesday at 8:52 a.m. she will publish a breaking news story with the headline “AfD politician Höcke sentenced to a fine.”

The problem: At this point it is a hoax!

Because when the FAZ story began to spread like wildfire on the Internet, the fourth day of the trial against Thuringia’s AfD leader Björn Höcke at the Halle (Saale) district court had not yet begun!

The presiding judge Jan Stengel is made aware of the incident during the first break in the session – and immediately makes it clear at the beginning of the continuation: “The chamber has not yet made a decision!”

Stengel assures the trial observers present of this, but especially the defendant Höcke, whom he addresses directly. The experienced judge sums up in disbelief that he has “never experienced anything like this”. After all, we are still in the middle of taking evidence.

The scandal at the FAZ apparently happened because someone pressed a button too early and published the article with the verdict – thought up and pre-formulated by the editorial team.

A small technical oversight with a big impact.

A respected quality newspaper unintentionally gave the impression that it had advance knowledge of an important court ruling that was not made in public, as is usual, but in the back rooms of the judiciary.

A fatal signal that is likely to strengthen AfD supporters in their critical, defensive attitude towards the “established media” and the supposedly biased judiciary. What’s more, because the Frankfurt journalists were ultimately correct in terms of content.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the 5th Large Criminal Chamber sentenced Höcke to a fine. He has to pay 100 daily rates of 130 euros each, a total of 13,000 euros. When applause erupted in the hall immediately after the announcement, Judge Stengel immediately intervened and stopped the cheering.

Stengel leaves it with a short but peppery justification for the judgment. He says sentences like: “The court has to listen to everything, but it doesn’t have to believe everything.” And he emphasizes that the chamber made “completely independent” decisions.

Turning to Höcke’s sophisticated defense attorney, Stengel explained that the threat of legal action “we don’t give a damn.” They are convinced that the accusations made by the prosecution are essentially true.

Accordingly, Höcke used the slogan “Everything for Germany” at an AfD election campaign event in 2021 in Merseburg (Saxony-Anhalt). According to the public prosecutor’s office, this is a banned slogan of the SA, the NSDAP’s paramilitary fighting organization.

The court emphasizes that it is certain that Höcke violated Section 86a of the Criminal Code (“Use of symbols of unconstitutional and terrorist organizations”). The 52-year-old committed the crime under “the guise of freedom of expression” and knew full well that he was committing a criminal offense.

His motto was: “Let’s see how far I can go.”

When Höcke hears this, he shakes his head in horror. Otherwise he seems petrified, shocked. Apparently he had fully expected an acquittal.

With its verdict, the court does not follow the public prosecutor’s office. The prosecution had demanded six months in prison, suspended for two years. As a condition, Höcke was supposed to pay 10,000 euros – for example to a democracy promotion project or an exit program for right-wing extremists.

According to the prosecutor in his plea, Höcke “acted intentionally” and was “very well aware” of the historical context of the slogan. Everything else is neither credible nor realistic, but simply “a protective claim”.

The defendant had studied the language of the Nazis very intensively and used it “strategically and systematically”. He has a “well-founded Nazi vocabulary” and therefore “knowledge of perpetrators”. With his statements, Höcke committed “targeted, planned border crossings”.

The public prosecutor does not believe that, as a top AfD politician, he did not know the meaning of “Everything for Germany”.

This is clear from the fact that two party colleagues already had legal trouble in 2017 and 2020 because of the use of the saying. The proceedings were “sufficiently reported in the media”. Höcke also knew one of the two well and often exchanged ideas with him.

Therefore, there can be “no reasonable doubt” that Höcke knew about the criminal liability – and still used the wording.

While the prosecutor says all this, Höcke keeps shaking his head. Later he will verbally attack his opponent and portray himself – once again – as a defenseless victim of the justice system and the media.

But first it is the turn of the defendant’s three defense attorneys to give their final speeches. They unanimously demand an acquittal. They attack the public prosecutor’s office in sometimes harsh words.

Lawyer Ralf Hornemann makes the unflattering remark: “You are in the area of ​​magical thinking!” This is fatal, because ultimately the trial is about nothing less than the question of “what you are still allowed to say in this state “.

His colleague Philip Müller calls the public prosecutor’s allegations “constructed and not very realistic”. The two representatives of the authority would come across as “rhetorically impressive”, but would move “at the level of assumptions” and inadmissible conclusions.

In order to get to the heart of the public prosecutor’s findings, Müller uses a formulation that is actually reserved for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution: Höcke remains a “suspected case”.

The lawyer from Munich accuses the prosecution of using “dubious circumstantial evidence”. She acts freely according to the motto: “Höcke, he’ll be one of those people…” What is meant is a guilty person, a lawbreaker.

The defense lawyer therefore appeals to the court that the “subjective attitude towards the defendant” should not decide guilt or innocence.

The third defender in the group, Ulrich Vosgerau, sees the objective facts as “not fulfilled”, namely that “Everything for Germany” was an important slogan of the SA.

That’s exactly what a witness unexpectedly called by Höcke’s defense explained in the morning. We are talking about Karlheinz Weißmann, a 65-year-old historian with a doctorate, a retired teacher from Göttingen and an expert on political symbols.

The man who writes regularly for Junge Freiheit and once founded the right-wing extremist “Institute for State Politics” in Schnellroda together with Götz Kubitschek is supposed to answer the court’s question as to where the slogan “Everything for Germany” comes from and what meaning it has, especially in the during the National Socialist era.

Weißmann explains that the slogan has been “in circulation since 1848” and was later widely used, among other things, “in social democratic military associations”. The slogan was also used in church circles (“Everything for Germany, everything for Christ”), in resistance against the Nazis (“Everything for Germany, nothing for Hitler”) and during the SED dictatorship in the GDR.

The Nazis also “used this formula,” said the witness, but they “did not have a strong presence” there. The meaning of the slogan is not comparable to “Sieg Heil” or “Germany Awake,” said Weißmann.

The former history teacher assures that the background to the slogan was “not the subject of history studies and certainly not of history lessons.” In doing so, he confirms a statement made by Höcke, who himself was a history teacher for many years, from the second day of the trial.

Weißmann further explains that most people would probably see the saying “Everything for Germany” as an expression of “excessive patriotism”. But almost no one knows that the formula is punishable because of its proximity to the SA.

The defendant Höcke claims exactly that. He simply “didn’t know” about it, he says like a mantra. His defense attorney Ulrich Vosgerau concludes that “the subjective facts are not fulfilled either.”

He describes the public prosecutor’s line as “borderline, not to say scandalous.” The allegations against Höcke are “not proven and documented”.

In addition, Vosgerau massively questions the constitutionality of Section 86a. The legal norm does not tell citizens or lawyers “what is permitted and what is forbidden”. Even specialists would first have to consult legal commentaries. That is not compatible with the constitution.

In the event that Höcke is convicted here and now, Vosgerau has announced that he will go to the Federal Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Finally, Höcke has the last word, which he takes “of course”. He stands up, gestures with his arms, appears highly emotional.

He takes issue with the public prosecutor’s office, describing their actions as “unacceptable” and “dishonest”. In her plea, Höcke complains, she went “on a fantasy journey.” He has the impression that his opponent is not acting neutrally, but is appearing in court as a “political activist”. The AfD politician: “I was personally very disappointed.” He felt he was being treated unfairly.

Almost tearfully, Höcke asks the room: “Do I have no human dignity? Am I not human?” Long pause. Be silent. Then he continues speaking. His parliamentary immunity has now been lifted eight times – not because of corruption or breach of trust or similar serious crimes, but “because of offenses of opinion”.

Höcke: “I have the feeling of being a politically persecuted person!” He feels that as head of “by far the largest opposition party in Thuringia” he is being damaged. His speeches were “put on the gold scales” and every comma was interpreted.

“Do we want to ban the German language because the Nazis also spoke German?” The Nazis also said “Hello,” said Höcke. “Do you now also want to ban the phrase ‘Guten Tag’?” He emphasizes several times that freedom of expression in Germany is “existentially threatened” – and he provides the best example of this.

He is used to a lot of headwinds, but being “taken to task” like that was surprising even for him. He would have liked a “minimum level of ideological neutrality,” he tells the public prosecutor to his face. He asks him whether he was “left unimpressed” by his defense lawyers’ exculpatory statements. Or was he not interested in any of this at all, “because you had already made your decision?”

Höcke’s last words to the presiding judge: “I ask you for an acquittal. Thank you!”

The judgment is not final and an appeal is possible within a week.