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A well-known figure in a German far-right party tells his trial he is completely innocent


BERLIN (AP) — One of the best-known figures in the far-right Alternative for Germany party said Tuesday at his trial on charges of using a Nazi slogan that he is “completely innocent.”

Björn Höcke went on trial at the state court in the eastern city of Halle last week, months before a regional election in the state of Thuringia in which he plans to run for the governor's job. He is accused of using symbols of unconstitutional organizations, a charge that can carry a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.

Höcke is accused of ending a speech in nearby Merseburg in May 2021 with the words “Everything for Germany!” Prosecutors contend he was aware of the origin of the phrase as a slogan of the Nazis’ SA stormtroopers, but Höcke has argued that it is an “everyday saying.”

There are no formal pleas in the German legal system and defendants aren't obliged to respond to the charges. But Höcke did so on Tuesday, German news agency dpa reported.

“I am in fact completely innocent,” he said. The former history teacher described himself as a “law-abiding citizen.”

Court sessions in the trial are scheduled through May 14.

The 52-year-old Höcke is an influential figure on the hard right of Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

He has led the AfD’s regional branch in Thuringia since 2013, the year the party was founded, and is due to lead its campaign in a state election set for Sept. 1.

He once called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame” and called for Germany to perform a “180-degree turn” in how it remembers its past. A party tribunal in 2018 rejected a bid to have him expelled.

The Thuringia branch of the AfD is now one of three that the domestic intelligence agency has under official surveillance as a “proven right-wing extremist” group.