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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 17:00 GMT
German faces jail for 'ironic' remark
Surfing the net, BBC
Anti-censorship groups say freedom of speech is at stake
A German man could be jailed for three years over a comment posted on the internet in which he is accused of approving of the events of 11 September.

Congratulations to the murderers of 11.09.01

Holger Voss
In a case which critics say has major implications for freedom of speech on the internet, Holger Voss stands accused of "glorification of a criminal act".

Mr Voss, who will appear in court in the western German town of Muenster on Wednesday, insists his comments were meant to be sarcastic.

He had written a final sentence at the foot of his remarks - posted last summer on the Telepolis message board - which he says indicates that the sentiments expressed were not to be taken seriously.

"The court will decide whether he did indeed mean them ironically, and if so, whether or not that makes any difference," court spokesman Juergen Wrobel told BBC News Online.

Anonymous tip-off

The apparently offending remarks were made in response to a message posted by another internet user - Engine_of_Aggression - who appeared to be pleased about the alleged murders of thousands of Taleban fighters by local militias during the downfall of the Afghan regime in 2001.

"Congratulations to the people, who in this over-critical time, dare to grab evil at its root and eradicate it from the face of the earth!" wrote Engine_of_Aggression.

Mr Voss, who describes himself as an anti-militarist, responded:

"Yes, Congratulations to the murderers of 11.09.01.... Good, that on 11.09 a couple of real men (!) found the courage to show the evil ones, the USA how it really is!"

An anonymous complaint to the police led to the prosecution under a German law which forbids the glorification of a criminal act.

In a statement posted on the anti-censorship site Stop1984, Mr Voss insists he was attempting to display the hypocrisy in valuing American lives over others.

The suit has also sparked controversy as the prosecution forced the owner of the discussion board to hand over details about Mr Voss.

See also:

30 May 02 | Science/Nature
13 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
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