Thomas Wulff was arrested last July after being seen by witnesses placing a Nazi flag in the casket of the deceased neo-Nazi Friedhelm Busse. Displaying swastika banner is a criminal offence in Germany.
Prosecutors in the Bavarian city had asked that Wulff get a six-month jail sentence. Wulff’s defence lawyer, the head of the Hamburg branch of the extremist National Democratic Party, Jürgen Rieger, said his client was exercising his right to free speech.
During testimony Monday morning, Wulff said he was given the flag by other bystanders at the funeral and he placed it on the coffin because he was standing nearest to the grave. He said the action was unplanned.
In its judgment, the court sided with Wulff’s story and said his actions were not a knowing provocation of the public and that the swastika had only been visible for a few momements. The court concluded a fine was sufficient punishment.
Wulff’s case has spawned additional drama. Passau police chief Alois Mannichl dug up the coffin and removed the flag shortly afterward.
In December 2008, Mannichl was stabbed at the door of his home by an unknown assailant who reportedly said, “Many greetings from the national resistance.” Police have not yet apprehended any suspects in the attack.