Germany’s highest federal court on Thursday overturned [press release, in German] a lower federal court’s acquittal of seven men charged with violating Germany’s ban [text, PDF, in German] on wearing uniforms in public that convey a political message.
In November 2016, seven men were arrested while they “patrolled” the streets of downtown Wuppertal, purportedly attempting to enforce strict interpretations of Sharia law on residents. The men were wearing orange reflective vests displaying “Sharia Police” on their backs in an attempt to dissuade young Muslims from gambling, visiting brothels, eating at restaurants, and consuming alcohol.
The Wuppertal District Court subsequently acquitted [DW report] the men, finding that the orange vests were not suggestively militant or intimidating so as to invoke § 3 of the Assembly Act. That section prohibits the wearing of “uniforms, uniform pieces or similar garments in public or in a meeting as an expression of a common political attitude” and was originally aimed at stemming Nazi-like gatherings.
The 3rd Criminal Division of the Federal Court of Justice found that the lower court was incorrect when it acquitted the men. The appeals court rejected the lower court’s “suggestively militant” standard and found that the lower court did not take into account how the actions of the vigilantes’ affected members of the public.