(JTA) – An anti-Semitic agitator has lost his appeal in a German court on his conviction for incitement to hate.
An appeals court in the Essen District has upheld January’s verdict in the groundbreaking case against Taylan Can, who unsuccessfully argued that his chants at an anti-Israel demonstration last summer were purely political.
In January, Judge Gauri Sastry had stated that calling for “death and hate to Zionists” was tantamount to anti-Semitism. She sentenced Can to three months of probation and a fine of about $200.
The appeals court has affirmed her verdict and extended the probation period to 10 months.
The May 22 decision “is an absolute milestone in an otherwise very upsetting setting,” commented Sacha Stawski, founder and president of the German pro-Israel media watchdog Honestly Concerned.
Last summer’s demonstrations in Germany were “filled with hate – anti-Semitic hate, which hid behind the ‘facade’ of supposed ‘criticism’ of Zionism and of Israel,” Stawski said. “The judges in this case very correctly came to the conclusion that criticism is absolutely acceptable; but what we saw had nothing to do with voicing concern over the defensive measures of the Israeli army.”
Taylan Can is a German citizen whose family emigrated from Turkey.
The incident took place on July 18, 2014 on Weberplatz in Essen, when anti-Israel protesters broke through a police barricade and attacked pro-Israel demonstrators. A video recording of the melee shows Can leading a chant of “death and hate to the Zionists.”
In court, Can said he had “nothing against Jews, just against Zionists.” He insisted he was just exercising freedom of speech.
German blogger Stefan Laurin, in a post on the verdict, noted that the latest decision “could make it harder for anti-Semites to act out their hatred of Jews in public.”