This most peculiar case, decided by a court in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, has its origins in a headline-grabbing comment by Joachim Herrmann, Bavaria’s interior minister, during a debate on public television about refugees last summer.
Insisting that he didn't have a problem with immigration, Herrmann described Roberto Blanco, a crooner from the 1970s with African roots, as a “wonderful Negro.”
The comment swiftly elicited a mixture of derision and outrage on social media and in the press.
Blanco himself took the mangled compliment in his stride, describing Hermann in turn as a “wonderful white man.”
But others were less than pleased that the Bavarian politician could get away with using such an outdated term.
David Schneider-Addae-Mensah, a lawyer from Karlsruhe who himself is of African heritage, retorted by writing Hermann a letter criticizing his “racist mindset”, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Sunday.
He signed off by writing “Mr Herrmann, you are a really wonderful product of inbreeding.”
The interior minister was less than pleased with the insult. Rather than treating it as a case of a lesson learned, he reported the lawyer to police.
Prosecutors agreed that the insult had gone too far, and argued in court that Schneider-Addae-Mensah should pay a fine.
The Karlsruhe judiciary, though, saw things differently.
The use of the word Negro was “a derogatory racist description” the judge argued, adding that the accusation of racism in Schneider-Addae-Mensah’s letter was therefore accurate and not punishable.
As for the claim Herrmann was a product of incest, the judge said that Schneider-Addae-Mensah had “a right to hit back” – which is a legal entitlement for those whose honour has been damaged by excessive criticism.
In such an instance the affected person can “respond drastically and sharply”, the judge said.