(Bloomberg) -- One of the most prominent regional leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, on trial for using a Nazi slogan, said in court on Tuesday he did nothing wrong and never violated any laws. 

Bjoern Hoecke, the head of the AfD in the eastern state of Thuringia, was charged for using the catchphrase “Alles für Deutschland” — everything for Germany — in a speech at a party rally in May 2021. The slogan was used by militant arm of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Hoecke said in a defense statement on Tuesday he wasn’t aware the slogan was used by Nazis. Just because he is a history teacher by training doesn’t mean he knows each and every historic fact, he added. He said he despises the Nazi ideology and any form of dictatorship. 

“I’m totally innocent,” said Hoecke. “I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m standing before you in the full conscience that I never violated any law in the 52 years of my life.”

A similar incident at another rally in December which originally was added to the case has been dropped for now. 

Before Hoecke started his statement, Presiding Judge Jan Stengel said that if the allegations are proven, the court would impose a fine at most, ruling out that the judges would impose any ban on him voting or being elected to public office.  

Hoecke is one of the most controversial figures in the AfD, which is currently polling in second place nationwide second place nationwide on between 16% and 19%, ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and behind only the main opposition conservatives.

In its eastern German stronghold, the AfD is leading in the polls ahead of three regional votes in September. However, it’s unlikely to get into government as all other parties have ruled out forming an alliance with it.

In his defense against the charges, Hoecke has earlier said he had simply tried to translate former US President Donald Trump’s “America First” catchphrase into German.

In reaction to the Nazi era and the Holocaust, in which Germany killed 6 million Jews, the country criminalized the use of Nazi terms, slogans or regalia. It’s also a crime to deny the Holocaust happened.

Germany’s top court has repeatedly backed these rules, saying the ban of such speech is justified as the German constitution “can be understood in great parts as a counterdraft to the totalitarianism of the Nazi regime.”



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