Wuppertal, Germany (dpa) – Seven men on trial for patrolling the streets of the German city of Wuppertal in vests marked “Shariah Police” five years ago declined to respond to the allegations when their retrial opened on Monday.
The state court trial is being heard in the city after a higher federal court threw out an earlier acquittal.
At the same time that the accused were seen on the streets in September 2014, flyers were found in the city proclaiming a “Shariah Controlled Zone” and listing rules, including a ban on alcohol, gambling, music, pornography, prostitution and drugs.
The defendants, aged between 27 and 37, are charged with violating a ban on the wearing of uniforms or with being an accessory. The court has set aside four days for the trial over the course of two weeks. The men could face up to two years in prison.
The charge sheet describes the men as members of the “Salafist scene” and alleges that one of their goals was to abolish the German democratic legal system in order to replace it with Shariah law.
In ordering a retrial, the federal court criticized the lower court for taking into account that none of the witnesses to the illegal action had felt intimidated by it.
The higher court ruled that it was sufficient that the action was aimed at intimidating Muslims.
The accused filmed their actions and circulated the video on the internet.
Sven L, the alleged instigator, expressed regret after controversy erupted. “Perhaps the name was provocative. Perhaps it was also a mistake on our part,” he said in a video message released at the time.
Proceedings against L have been suspended, and he is to appear as a witness on Friday. He was released from prison last week after serving two-thirds of a five-and-a-half-year sentence for aiding terrorist acts.
By Wolfram Lumpe and Frank Christiansen, dpa