German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck (L) and Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (R) can't take an insult. EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER


German fined €6,000 for ‘violating honour’ of Greens politicians


A German man has been fined €6,000 for insulting The Greens party politicians in his home country.

Björn Otto, a patent attorney, was initially issued with a penalty of €45,000 by the public prosecutor but the judge lowered that to €6,000 on June 14.

Greens politicians had filed a complaint claiming their honour was violated by his comments made at the end of 2022, German newspaper Bild reported.

As a vocal critic of the vaccination programme during the Covid pandemic, Otto had installed a video display in the rear window of his car showing images of government politicians including three Greens MPs.

The defendant had titled economic minister Robert Habeck as “Hadreck” and foreign minister Annalena Baerbock as “Blödbock”. Of The Greens MP Anton Hofreiter, Otto wrote: “If you smell what Anton Hofreiter looks like, then we’ll see you on the street!”

A civilian patrol of the Munich police stopped his car, seized the video display and his mobile phone.

State security was informed and contacted the politicians “targeted” by Otto. All of those involved were asked if they wanted to file a criminal complaint for insult and the three Greens did.

Of the others, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, of the Socialist Party, and finance minister Christian Lindner, a Liberal, did not want to do so.

Otto was forced to go to court to fight the €45,000 fine, and his criminal defence lawyer, Marc Wederhake, said they would now also appeal the €6,000 fine.

Both say freedom of expression is on the line and that in a constitutional democracy, people should be allowed to criticise those in power.

Joachim Steinhöfel, a high-profile lawyer, on June 18 criticised the investigators in the Bild newspaper: “If the State security asks politicians for criminal charges, it exceeds its legal powers,” he said.

“This is particularly serious because the State wants to pursue and punish the exercise of important fundamental rights such as criticism of power and freedom of expression by breaking the law.”

In a separate incident, in May this year, Werner Heinrich, a former judge, was fined for calling Habeck “a complete idiot” on Facebook.

In his defence, Heinrich argued that the original definition of the term “idiot” meant “incompetent” and therefore was a fitting description, “since [with] the Greens in the government everything goes down the drain”.

The court saw it as “malicious contempt” and deemed it an “insult directed against persons of political life” under Section 188 of the Criminal Code. Heinrich was forced to pay €7,800.

In another case, in March, Michael Much, a German entrepreneur, successfully fought a €6,000 fine in court for mocking Greens politicians.