A German national is on trial after promoting the illegal practice of "civil society asylum" on a website under his name. Among other means, he is alleged to have advocated hiding rejected asylum seekers in private homes.
The defendant is alleged to have supported the idea of giving assistance to failed asylum seekers by sheltering them illegally in private households — a practice which contravenes German law.
Even though there is no proof to suggest that the man from Hanau near Frankfurt actually provided shelter to any failed asylum seekers himself, he has to be tried in the same manner under laws equating incitement to criminal offences to committing criminal offences.
The practice of "civil society asylum" ("Bürgerasyl" in German) is seen as an act of civil disobedience according to paragraph 111 of the German Criminal Code, which states that whoever "incites the commission of an unlawful act incurs the same penalty as an abettor."
The trial is taking place at the Amtgericht (magistrate’s court) in the city of Aschaffenburg. If found guilty, the accused might face up to five years in prison or a fine.
According to courtroom minutes, the website in question suggested that providing "civil society asylum" for failed asylum seekers who might likely be facing deportation should be regarded as a form of "societal intervention measure" in the face of an "inhuman deportation apparatus."
The campaign also implied that rejected asylum seekers should — if necessary — anonymously be hidden away in people’s personal homes.
It is unclear how the local public prosecutor discovered the website; however, court documents and the nature of the German legal system suggest that that it was found proactively by the prosecutor, as no plaintiff is listed.
Over the past years, Germany has been deporting hundreds of people whose asylum applications failed chiefly on account of their nationality. If asylum seekers come from so-called "safe countries of origin" and have no proof of having any unique reasons to qualify for asylum in Germany, they will eventually be sent back.
In some cases, deportations attract a lot of attention from campaigners when people are being returned to countries they believe should not be deemed as safe, such as Afghanistan.