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German court rules Nazi symbols can be used in protest against extremism

[JURIST] The German Federal Court of Justice [official website] on Thursday ruled Nazi symbols could be used to protest extremism, overturning an October decision by a state court in Stuttgart [Deutsche Welle report]. The lower court had ordered Juergen Kamm, who began an internet company called Nix Gut [company website], to pay a fine of 3,600 euros (US $4,600) for selling T-shirts and badges featuring a swastika surrounded by a red circle and slash. Judge Walter Winkler, presiding at Thursday's decision, rejected the lower court's assertion that allowing swastikas as a "fashion article" risks making them "socially acceptable" again. He did say that for any symbol to be allowed, the anti-Nazi meaning had to be immediately apparent.

After the October decision, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries [official profile, English version] had said that Germany should consider amending its penal code [JURIST report] to allow for the use of swastikas in anti-Nazi materials. A provision of the federal penal code [text] prohibits the "use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations," including those of the "former National Socialist organization," and prescribes punishment of up to three years' imprisonment or a fine. The code was enacted after World War II and makes exceptions for those using the symbols for educational or scientific purposes. AP has more.

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