June 22, 2021

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The dilemma of freedom of expression

The dilemma of freedom of expression

Dresden. While the Prosecutor of Saxony, Hans Strobel, ordered a few years ago that his authorities should systematically prosecute crimes against state officials, the higher courts in particular give freedom of expression very wide scope in cases of doubt, even if it is to the detriment of the case. Civil servants. For example, when police officers show the finger at demonstrations.

Dresden County Court has now heard an unusual case in which this dilemma was in the background. A 34-year-old Syrian man is said to have insulted an employee of the Dresden immigration authorities – of all things, on an online assessment portal, as he decisively dealt with his treatment by this officer. According to the prosecution, the man wrote in his report at the beginning of 2019 that he had “unfortunately had the worst experiences” with the employee, whom he called and formulated, “she has racism in her veins.”

Criminal Judge Ulrich Jarels had initially sentenced the defendant to a fine of 200 euros by issuing a penalty order. The 20 daily penalty is a general tariff for crimes in the lower range. However, the accused did not accept the verdict, which is why it must now be negotiated in a process.

It is too late for the official date

The defendant, who does not deny being the author of this review, has been released. Today he lives in Cologne. His interests were represented by defense attorney Andreas Bowen. I was stunned by the whole process. “There is a background to this thing,” he explained. His client was late for an appointment with the Immigration Office. It should only be five minutes, says Bowen. However, the aforementioned officer no longer received the client, but closed the door in front of him.

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The 34-year-old was upset about this and wrote the entry in the rating portal under this impression. “This is clearly an acceptable expression,” Bowen said. His client wrote in Arabic that unfortunately there is only Google Translate. Perhaps you should hire a real interpreter to do the translation in order to arrive at the exact meaning. But even if the “reworked” translation of the program was correct, he did not see this as an insult.

“Citizens have the right to criticize the government’s actions,” Bowen said. Even if the officer had good reasons for treating his client in this way, he could still say that he had the impression that he was disenfranchised because of his origin: “It doesn’t mean anything else.”

The judge apologizes

Judge Jarelts apologized for signing the sentence. At that time he was not aware of a relatively new decision of the Dresden District Supreme Court. Basically, it would mean that the finger extended against the police officers in the demo may be covered by freedom of speech. Therefore, he recommends today to close the procedures.

However, the prosecutor saw it completely differently. She refused to hire her without making a personal impression on the accused and the injured party. Even an immigration employee does not have to be called “racist”.

Bowen’s defense attorney disagreed. His client did not describe the woman as “racist.” He was concerned with the behavior of the officer as he received it. The defendant testified to the police that he was upset. He also apologized for her. “It is a mystery to me how you can still charge him in this regard,” the lawyer said.

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Better de-escalate!

In response to the prosecution’s objections, Judge Jarels replied that the trial was not related to an assessment of the officer’s behavior. Even correct treatment by an employee of the authority can mean that the accused has the right to freedom of expression. In light of current jurisprudence, he does not assume that convictions will continue in the following cases, so Garrelts.

In the course of the discussion, it became apparent that if the female employee actually felt strongly attacked because of this, she should consider whether she would do better in an area free of public traffic. It would be good for all state officials to calm down in such cases.

At the end of the sometimes heated debate, Judge Garrelts dropped the case at no cost to the accused with the consent of all parties involved. “I admit I shouldn’t have issued the sentence in the first place,” he said. The defendant had apologized, and there was no evidence that the injured party was racist.

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But the judge said there was a right to freedom of opinion, which at least provided an example of appeasement through his self-criticism. This decision will not convince everyone in a city that has been fighting for free speech for years. Such is the case with dilemmas.

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