German court convicts a prominent far-right politician for using a Nazi slogan again

Björn Höcke, center, chairman of the Thuringian AfD, enters the courtroom of the district court shortly before the verdict is announced after his lawyer Florian Gempe, left, in Halle, Germany, Monday July 1, 2024. Höcke was convicted for the second time Monday of knowingly using a Nazi slogan at a political event. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — A high-profile politician in the far-right Alternative for Germany party was convicted for the second time Monday of knowingly using a Nazi slogan at a political event.

Björn Höcke, who plans to run for governor in the eastern state of Thuringia in September, was fined for using the banned Nazi slogan “Everything for Germany.”

The Halle Regional Court found the 52-year-old guilty of using signs of unconstitutional and terrorist organizations and sentenced him to a fine of 130 daily rates of 130 euros each — or 16,900 euros ($18,000) — German news agency dpa reported.

An appeal against the ruling is possible. The conviction won't block him from running in the election.

The charge of using symbols of an unconstitutional organization can carry a fine or up to three years in prison.

Höcke was already fined 13,000 euros in May, also for using symbols of an unconstitutional organization, a verdict that his lawyers are appealing.

The earlier case centered on a speech in Merseburg in May 2021 in which Höcke used the phrase “Everything for Germany!” Judges last month agreed with prosecutors’ argument that the former history teacher was aware of its origin as a slogan of the Nazis’ SA stormtroopers.

In the current case, prosecutors alleged that he repeated the offense at an Alternative for Germany, or AfD, event in Gera in December, “in certain knowledge” that using the slogan is a criminal offense.

They alleged that Höcke said “Everything for ...” and encouraged the audience to shout “Germany!”

Höcke again insisted that he did nothing wrong, dpa reported.

“I am also completely innocent in this case,” he said. “I know I will be convicted. But that doesn’t feel fair to me.”

Höcke questioned whether using the phrase of such everyday words constitutes a criminal offense.

In his ruling on Monday, Judge Jan Stengel said a video of the speech in Gera showed Höcke’s "mimic approval” — meaning he had wanted people in the audience to complete the banned slogan, dpa reported.

Alternative for Germany has built a strong core of support, particularly in the formerly communist east — including Thuringia. The party's strength in that region helped propel it to a second-place finish in the European Parliament election earlier this month, taking 15.9% of the vote despite recent scandals and setbacks.