German court orders removal of 'Hang the Greens' posters

FILE PHOTO: A handout picture taken September 8, 2021 and obtained September 16, 2021 shows an election poster saying "Hang The Greens", placed by The Third Way, a far-right party with suspected links to neo-Nazi groups, in Zwickau, Germany. Radio Zwickau/Handout via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court ordered on Tuesday the removal of election posters saying "Hang The Greens" placed by a far-right party with suspected links to neo-Nazi groups.

The posters festooning the city of Zwickau were put up by The Third Way, a small party monitored by security services, days before a vote that will set the course of Europe's largest economy after the departure of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Greens, third in the polls, are likely to be part of a coalition government after the Sept. 26 vote.

German concerns about far-right violence were heightened two years ago when conservative politician Walter Luebcke was shot dead by a neo-Nazi for his pro-immigration views.

The top regional court in the eastern state of Saxony overruled a lower court that had said the posters could stay up as long as they were not displayed within 100 metres (109.36 yards) of Green posters.

"The party's freedom of expression must take a back seat to the protection of public safety," the higher court said in a statement, adding that the posters could be seen as inciting hatred and violence against members of the Greens.

The Third Way had argued that the slogan was ambiguous, especially in the context of an election as its campaign posters were green, and that there was a free speech justification for keeping the posters up.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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