300 euros less fine than demanded by the public prosecutor's office: That's what Gregor Gysi got before the Tiergarten district court in Berlin, where he convicted a 24-year-old activist of the "last generation" against allegations of coercion, resistance to police officers and trespassing during a climate protection campaign in Berlin Foyer of the Federal Ministry of Justice defended.
The lawyer Gysi, who sits in the Bundestag as a foreign politician for the left, pleaded for acquittal. The court disagreed and ordered the activist to pay 1,350 euros. They are to be paid in daily rates of 15 euros, in accordance with the precarious situation of the activist as a trained carpenter and student of mechanical engineering, but who has dedicated himself entirely to blocking roads and fossil infrastructure since the beginning of the year. The man was involved in several road blockades in Berlin.
During the course of the trial, the 24-year-old made it clear that he would not stop after the verdict was pronounced. In both of his statements, at the beginning of the trial and at the end, his voice repeatedly faltered under the tears he held back. Gysi and the presiding judge offered handkerchiefs.
The defendant explained: He was terrified of a future beyond global warming of 1.5 degrees, of a collapse of civilization, of an end to humanity. After he put the word "siblings" in his mouth, he visibly had to pull himself together to continue: he has seven himself, all but one are younger than him.
The activist is convinced that, as adults, they would all find themselves in a war-torn world - deprived of all vital resources if the German government did not take stricter measures to reduce CO₂. He apologizes to the drivers he blocked, "but not for demonstrating to preserve our society." His whole speech seems as if he wanted to make it clear that he is sitting there now and cannot act otherwise, since the impending climate catastrophe demands it of him.
Gysi's defense speech was based on this consideration - of the climate crisis as the ultimate catastrophe that requires resistance in Germany, here and now.
In addition to legal theorizing explanations about the nature of violence and the absence of the same in sit-ins, he brought up four essential points.
First: The climate crisis and the corresponding concerns of his client are real; the judge must also recognize this and include it in the decision-making process.
Secondly, the Federal Constitutional Court found this in the climate judgment of 2021, now corresponding legal practice must follow.
What Gysi wants: That the court acquits his client because climate protection as a good of constitutional status outweighs any criminal action such as blocking roads. In addition, the right of assembly "takes precedence over the right to move somewhere by car".
Thirdly, Gysi argued with the keyword "intergenerational justice", which on the one hand only refers to the climate judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court, but on the other hand was enriched by Gysi through his own experience. As a 74-year-old man, according to Gysi, he can be sure that he will survive the coming years of climate change, but that expressly does not apply to his client and his many years of life that lie ahead of him.
Fourthly, Gysi concluded: Since his client believes he is absolutely right – this is proven by the highly emotional appearance – it is doubtful to what extent there is a sense of wrongdoing and even an intention to commit a crime.
However, it is doubtful that the representatives of the “last generation” would have no sense of wrongdoing. At least one campaign group recruitment event in the past has used questionnaires asking, “Are you ready to go to jail? Arrested several times or only once?” distributed.
A handful of activists were present in the courtroom – the presiding judge had strictly reduced the number of visitors and also ordered strict security measures including a search of every guest – and the accused's godmother. In the waiting room behind the hall, she smiled, making it clear that she was behind what the activist was doing with the "last generation"; but she is worried about the criminal proceedings that are still pending and what the 24-year-old could face in the future. She says: Whether the many previous convictions could still be dangerous for him professionally, his life is still at the very beginning.
When he was allowed into the visitor's room shortly before the verdict was announced, the activist first hugged two fellow campaigners before going to his aunt. During the first long hug, the room fell silent.
The day before the start of the negotiations, the "Last Generation" had informed a written request that a "personal networking meeting" with Gysi had revealed that the left-wing politician and lawyer "would consider whether he would like a supporter in the coming weeks: would defend in court in the 'Last Generation'. A few hours later he sent us confirmation that he would like to represent someone.” It sounds as if Gysi brought himself into the game as a defender.
After the hearing at the Tiergarten district court, Gysi hurried between the television cameras and the assembled activists, who hastily unfurled a banner in front of the courthouse wanting a photo with him. On the one hand, it seems, it is simply about support from a prominent politician. But does Gysi, the lawyer, want more? Gysi announces an appeal against the decision – "this is about fundamental issues".
Carla Hinrichs, the spokeswoman for the "Last Generation" and also standing before the court, says: "We as a group will not accept that peaceful resistance will be condemned."
It is possible that this negotiation was the prelude to a longer legal dispute.
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