By Thomas Escritt
BERLIN – An east German city was due to go to court on Thursday seeking to remove election posters saying “Hang The Greens” placed by a far-right party with suspected links to neo-Nazi groups.
The posters festooning the city of Zwickau were put up by The Third Way, a small party monitored by security services, days before a vote that will set the course of Europe’s largest economy after the departure of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Greens, third in the polls, are likely to play a crucial role in forming government after the Sept. 26 vote.
German concerns about far-right violence were heightened two years ago when conservative politician Walter Luebcke was shot dead https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-crime-idUSKCN1TI1SB by a neo-Nazi for his pro-immigration views.
A lower court overruled Zwickau’s order for the posters to be removed, accepting The Third Way’s argument that the slogan was ambiguous, especially in the context of an election, and that there was a free speech justification.
The Third Way noted that green was its party colour too and pointed to barely visible text on the posters calling for its colours to be hung across the city.
The administrative court in Chemnitz, with jurisdiction over Zwickau, accepted this meant it was uncertain that the Greens were the posters’ target so long as they were not hung within 100 metres of Green posters.
That decision was greeted with widespread scorn on social media and elsewhere.
“It makes no difference to us if the posters are here or 100 metres further away,” said Zwickau mayor Constance Arndt.
“A call for Greens to hang is and remains totally unacceptable, undemocratic and irresponsible.”