Lawsuit argues satire doesn’t negate hate in trial of alleged Montreal neo-Nazi

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A dozen protesters demonstrated outside the Montreal courthouse on Friday as closing arguments resumed in the trial of Gabriel Sohier-Chaput, 35, a suspected neo-Nazi who wrote under the pseudonym “Zeiger.”

The protesters, some of them from the Montreal Anti-Fascist Collective, said they had no faith in the justice system, “so we are saying clearly that we will not tolerate fascism.”

Sohier-Chaput, who admitted to writing between 800 and 1,000 articles for the far-right online publication the Daily Stormer, pleaded not guilty to a single count of willfully promoting hate propaganda against Jewish people . If found guilty, the Montreal man faces up to two years in prison.

The defendant appearing via video link for the Crown’s closing arguments.

Defense lawyer Hélène Poussard had concluded her arguments on March 3, calling Sohier-Chaput’s actions offensive and in bad taste but “not advocating hatred”.

Prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière responded Friday that Sohier-Chaput’s writings went beyond being offensive and actually incited hatred against the Jewish people.

“Non-stop Nazism, everywhere”

The case hinges on a single article titled “Canada: Nazis Trigger Jews By Placing Posters On Ch–k Church,” using a racial slur to refer to the Asian community.

Using anti-Semitic memes and editorial commentary, the article celebrated neo-Nazi posters plastered on a bus stop in British Columbia and insulted a Holocaust survivor who had been questioned about the incident.

“We have to make sure that no SJW [social justice warrior] or Jew can safely remain without being tripped,” Sohier-Chaput admitted in writing.

“Non-stop Nazism, everywhere, until the very streets are flooded with the tears of our enemies.”

Testifying in his own defense on March 1, Sohier-Chaput said he did not write the more inflammatory passages of this article, which he said were added by his editor.

He claimed that his goal was satire and that young people familiar with internet culture would understand humor. He said attacking the Jewish people and the Holocaust was “necessary” to abolish political correctness.

Lafrenière dismissed Sohier-Chaput’s defense, arguing that “uninterrupted Nazism” cannot be equated with popular youth culture. And he said that regardless of who contributed what to the article, it had to be evaluated in its entirety.

Quebec Court Judge Manlio Del Negro agreed with Lafrenière that the elements of the article in question are offensive, racist, anti-Semitic and nationalist, but he reminded the court that it is not a crime of have these beliefs.

‘We’re playing on words,’ says defense attorney

Lafrenière argued that it is indisputable that the Jewish people were victims of Nazi persecution during World War II and that violence and hatred are fundamental tenets of Nazism.

He said that Sohier-Chaput, as an intelligent, educated and eloquent person, could not ignore the connotation of “non-stop Nazism, everywhere”, especially for people who already have anti-Semitic sentiments.

Lafrenière said “willful blindness” to the consequences of the messages is not a sufficient defense, because “incessant Nazism everywhere” means, in part, advocating genocide.

Del Negro, however, said he could not take judicial notice of all the historical facts and needed more evidence showing that Sohier-Chaput was inciting hatred.

The judge told the prosecutor it would have been helpful to have an expert witness to address what might be understood as “non-stop Nazism, everywhere” in the 2017 article.

Poussard, the defense attorney, also weighed in, saying people are now throwing the word Nazi apart from its original meaning, and that “genocide was not originally at the heart of Nazism.”

She said her colleague confuses the Holocaust with the Nazis.

“We are playing on words,” Poussard said.

“According to the dictionary, Nazism is National Socialism. It was an ideology. It was not part of the original plan to exterminate the Jews. I learned in school that six million people died in concentration camps to save money.”

“I advise you to stop: what you are saying is not reasonable”, intervened Del Negro. “That’s beyond the bounds of what can be said here.”

The trial will resume on August 29, with time set aside for rebuttals and to settle the argument on historical facts.

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