Björn Höcke is on trial in Halle for allegedly knowingly using an SA slogan. The first day of the trial was already hard.

Björn Hocke

Björn Höcke at the Halle court, April 18, 2024 Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

HALL taz | Criminal trials usually begin with the prosecution reading the charges. Things were different at the beginning of the trial against Thuringia AfD leader Björn Höcke at the Halle regional court. The prosecutor accuses him of having deliberately used the banned SA slogan “Everything for Germany” in a campaign speech.

With several motions, his defense lawyers delayed the reading of the specific charges for hours. Shortly after the prosecutor introduced them, the first day of the trial ended. It wasn't substantial, but it was still to the point.

The accusation concerns a speech that Höcke gave to an audience of around 250 people in Merseburg at the end of May 2021. At that time he supported his party colleagues in the neighboring state of Saxony-Anhalt in the federal election campaign. At the end of his speech, he took up his campaign motto: “Everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany.

The last three words are the banned motto of the so-called Sturmabteilung (SA), a paramilitary organization that sometimes has hundreds of thousands of members. After 1933 he lost influence, but before that he organized racist propaganda and implemented right-wing ideology with sometimes lethal violence.

Forbidden

The use of the slogan is prohibited in Germany. As with all unconstitutional and terrorist organizations, the use of license plates, including slogans, constitutes a criminal offense. Anyone who uses them will face a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.

On Thursday in Halle the accused Björn Höcke did not comment on the accusations. He appeared in the room dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, carrying some cards in his hand as if he were preparing for a long speech. On the cards you can see: the AfD logo in the Thuringian state parliament.

The prosecutor requested that the trial be digitally recorded. Lawyers are concerned, among other things, that the accused will be convicted in a politically motivated trial. The accusation of “political justice system” could be refuted by a recording. It is also unclear how previous reports have influenced the court.

four breaks

Presiding Judge Jan Stengel then imposed the first of four breaks in the deliberations. Objections and complaints followed, but in the end all requests from Höcke's defense lawyers were rejected. Prosecutor Benedikt Bernzen also criticized the way Höcke's lawyers handled the case. As he began to file the charges, he was interrupted by Höcke's lawyer, Ulrich Vosgerau.

Höcke himself appeared relaxed, although several hundred demonstrators protested against him at the start of the trial in front of the Halle justice center. In the room were not only 45 journalists, but also supporters of the far-right politician. After the second break, Höcke greeted the crowd once or twice.

A second case was separated from the process on Wednesday. In it, Höcke said “All for…” during a speech in Gera, but instead of saying the last word himself, he waved his hand toward the audience. Then several voices completed: “…Germany!” The prosecution has requested the reopening of the case.

The next hearing is Tuesday of next week. Judge Stengel hinted that Höcke's appearance on Welt TV could also influence the development of the trial. There, Höcke stated to an audience of millions that the SA slogan was just a “common saying.” However, in it No he explained how Germany should see itself reflected in the SA motto. But he also wants to express himself during the trial.

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