Witness where hate speech laws have taken this man:
A convicted thief had two extra months tacked on to his sentence Thursday for using an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler as the greeting for his cellphone voice mail.
The 20-year-old defendant, whose name was not released in line with privacy laws, was convicted by a court in the alpine province of Tyrol under a law that makes Nazi propaganda an offence in Austria. Police accidentally came across his phone message in 2004 when they called to question him about a burglary.
Prosecutors said the man had downloaded the slogan from the Internet and saved it on his cellphone as a message greeting callers when he was unable to answer. It said: "I swear unswerving loyalty to Adolf Hitler! I swear absolute obedience! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!"
The defendant had testified Thursday that the download was a "spontaneous act" and that he did not fully embrace the meaning of the oath.
The man was sentenced to a year in prison for theft and fencing stolen goods, but the court tacked on two extra months for using the Nazi oath.
"What nonsense!" the defendant said as he left the courtroom, the Austria Press Agency reported.
A tasteless joke, to be sure, but not a criminal act.
How does one determine whether he "fully embraced the meaning of the oath", when the object of his supposed obedience is dead and unable to command him?
How deep will one have to probe the mind of a supposed hate speaker to find his mens rea?
NOTICE: I shall be celebrating Christmas at one of my favourite secure undisclosed locations this year. I may blog less frequently, but I shall endeavour to blog at least once a day.