Zehn friends were part of the WhatsApp group. We had known each other for many years, we celebrated together again and again, and they felt like a “clique”. On February 18, 2018, at 10:23 p.m., Fabian G. posted a video in the group chat. The likeness of Adolf Hitler could be seen. The video should give the impression that the dictator is leaving a message on the answering machine. Was that a “stupid joke”, as Fabian G.’s defense lawyer explains? Or was the defendant trying to spread right-wing extremist propaganda?
The Alsfeld district court has to answer this question on Tuesday. But the distribution of the fake video in the WhatsApp group is not the only thing that the former police officer Fabian G., born in 1983, is accused of. He is also in the dock because he is said to have passed on official secrets. G. is said to have spied twice on police computers for acquaintances. A long-time friend asked him via chat message to find out whether there was an arrest warrant for her son. “Good Morning. I can have a look tomorrow, ”G. replied to the woman. The next day he informed her that there was no warrant for her son’s arrest.
Declared in the village as a “Nazi policeman”
He is also accused of violating gun laws. During the search of his apartment in Kirtorf in the Vogelsberg district, gas and alarm guns were seized. He should have had a gun license for two of these guns, but G. hadn’t registered them. The other weapons were “license-free”. This means that any adult can easily buy them. But he has to make sure that no one else can get hold of them. G. should not have done that: he kept the alarm pistols in an unlocked roll container in the office of his apartment, another weapon was discovered in his living room.
Many journalists, photographers and cameramen came to the trial. This has to do with the fact that allegations against Hessian police officers of being involved in the right-wing extremist scene have often been made lately. For example, Hessian police computers queried secret data from people who later received threatening letters from right-wing extremists, signed with the abbreviation NSU 2.0. In Frankfurt, the elite unit of the Special Operations Command (SEK) was disbanded because officials shared right-wing extremist content in internal chats.
And the allegations against Fabian G. and his older brother are not new either. In 2017 they are said to have shouted right-wing extremist slogans at a fair. Fabian G.’s brother was hoarding Nazi devotional items in his apartment, including SS uniforms. With historical interest and a passion for collecting, he justified that the objects were in his apartment. He had already been sentenced to a suspended sentence at the end of June, also for violating the gun laws and passing on official secrets, while the chat messages could not be legally charged to him either.
In the circular meeting room at the Alsfeld district court, Fabian G., who wears a white shirt, beige jeans and his hair tied in a pigtail, usually lets his lawyer speak for himself. His client would find it difficult to talk about the allegations, as he is “mentally and emotionally” very stressed, says the defense attorney. What happened in the past three years took Fabian G. with him. As a “Nazi policeman” he was decried in the village, he was attacked on the Internet and he was also afraid of physical attacks by anti-fascist activists.
Hitler video in a small circle is not a crime
But, contrary to what has been claimed, G. is not a right-wing extremist and also not a supporter of the Reich citizen scene. The lawyer excuses the video in the WhatsApp group as a macabre slip, the tone of voice in the chat was very coarse. He also justified the fact that his client could not be a right-wing zealot with the fact that he had friends with Polish and Turkish roots and that they were also part of the chat group. G. does not deny the acts themselves. He very much regrets what he has done.
The process on Tuesday does not last long, the judge announces his verdict after just two hours of hearing. As far as the disclosure of official secrets and the lax use of alarm guns are concerned, the matter is clear: Fabian G. committed the crimes and is sentenced to fines. He has to pay 120 daily rates of 35 euros for passing on police information, 80 daily rates for violating the gun laws.
But because of the Hitler video, Fabian G. is acquitted. The judge makes no secret of the fact that he finds it reprehensible to share such a video “that makes your stomach turn”. Nevertheless, he assumes that Fabian G. has not committed a crime. Because the circle in which he shared the video was private, a closed chat group, a kind of “virtual get-together”. It cannot be proven that Fabian G. wanted his video to be disseminated through this group as well.