Markus Meechan, the Scottish comedian better known as Count Dankula, braced for a stretch of prison time today following his sentencing last month over a “grossly offensive” joke that landed him in trouble with the law.
On Monday, the YouTuber who trained his girlfriend’s pet pug to perform the Nazi salute has been fined £800 ($1,117 USD) for the crime of making a “grossly offensive” joke.
The high-profile trial, which began last March, has been subject to extensive, if mostly biased media coverage painting the comedian and now-free speech activist as a member of the so-called “Alt-Right”—a movement Meechan has explicitly denounced. Meechan was forced to put his life on hold for two years over the charge.
Meechan was charged with committing a hate crime under a British communications act after he recorded the pug, Buddha, responding to statements like “gas the Jews” and “sieg heil” by raising its paw. Offended members of the public soon reported the comedy skit to the police, alleging that the video, which had been viewed fewer than a hundred times, was an incitement to violence against the Jewish community.
It has been viewed over 3 million times since the case blew up. Meechan has become a cause célèbre of British comedians, including The Office star Ricky Gervais and Jewish comedian David Baddiel, both of whom defended his right to free speech; and The IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan, who cheered on his arrest.
Dozens of free speech activists, including British firebrand Tommy Robinson, gathered outside the Airdrie Sheriff Court today to await his sentencing for Meechan’s violation of laws against “grossly offensive” speech, which “contained menacing, anti-Semitic, and racist material.”
“You deliberately chose the Holocaust as the theme of the video,” the sentencing judge told the court.
“You purposely used the command ‘gas the Jews’ as the centerpiece of what you called the entire joke, surrounding the ‘gas the Jews’ centerpiece with Nazi imagery and the ‘sieg heil’ command so there could be no doubt what historical events you were referring to.”
Meechan says he intends to appeal against his conviction over concerns that it sets a legal precedent prohibiting freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and Scotland.
“A really dangerous precedent has been set for people to say things, their context to be completely ignored and then they can be convicted for it,” said Meechan to the press. “You don’t get to decide the context of what you said, other people don’t get to, the court gets to – that’s dangerous.”
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